JEDDAH: The Kingdom issued 2.182 million Umrah visas for pilgrims until Thursday.
According to the Ministry of Haj, 1.8 million pilgrims have arrived and 500,000 more people with visas are still to come. They are expected to arrive in the coming days. Incoming pilgrims include 455,000 Egyptians and 333,000 Pakistanis.
“The Umrah traffic has been experiencing a slowdown; last year marked a decline by about 250,000 pilgrims compared to the previous year,” said Marwan Shabaan, head of the Haj and Umrah Committee.
“This decrease is due to the developing conditions in the region, including the low currency exchange, the economic condition of the people, the political and security situation in the world and the instability in the region. These factors are affecting Umrah visitors.”
Shaaban believes that Umrah visitors will increase during the coming Ramadan, especially if the ministry raises the visitors’ ceiling as opposed to previous years when the cap was put at 500,000 in the holy month of fasting.
He hoped the ceiling will be raised to enable maximum number of pilgrims to travel during this Umrah season.
Waleed Abu Saba, an investor in Umrah and hospitality services, said this season has been the worst compared to the past years. ‘We expected this season to compensate the losses from the previous season when numbers were low because of the development projects and expansion of the Haram in Makkah.
During this season, a number of countries like Yemen, Tunisia and Bangladesh exited from the list as no visas were issued to any nationals from these countries despite the fact that these countries were prominent in last Umrah season’s list. They included 100,000 Bangladeshis, 12,000 Tunisians and 30,000 Yemenis.