JEDDAH: King Salman has approved a series of new initiatives and incentives to help businesses involved in the annual Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages recover from the financial impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, six specific initiatives were given royal approval.
Businesses offering accommodation facilities in Makkah and Madinah will be exempt from annual municipal fees for a year.
Companies involved in Hajj and Umrah will be exempt from having to pay fees for employing expats for six months.
The renewal of licenses for accommodation facilities in Makkah and Madinah will now be done free of charge by the Ministry of Tourism, for a period of one year, but may be extended.
Residential renewal fees for expat workers employed in activities related to the Hajj and Umrah sector will be delayed for six months, and the amounts can instead be paid in instalments over 12 months.
Bus operators will be able to extend their licenses to transport pilgrims free of charge and, lastly, custom duties on new buses will be delayed for three months and can instead be paid in installments over a period of four months starting from the due date.
The latest initiatives are part of more than 150 schemes, worth SR180 billion ($48 billion), launched by the Saudi government to reduce the impact the pandemic has had on businesses, the private sector, and investors.
Saudi authorities said recently that no COVID-19 cases had been recorded among pilgrims and worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah since the start of the pandemic last year.
Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said this could be attributed to the precautionary measures that had been put in place and enhanced as the health crisis progressed.
Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten said, as of February, his ministry had facilitated Umrah for more than 100,000 pilgrims in Madinah and at least 600,000 in Makkah, despite the virus outbreak and the temporary closure of both mosques.