Better deliver what they promise: Saudi Arabia toughens up requirements for Hajj firms
The Ministry of Haj has warned local Haj companies against running exaggerated advertising campaigns and to refrain from using language that seemingly promotes special or VIP services.
The ministry has also banned companies from publishing photos of scholars on their print advertising campaigns to lure potential Hajis (pilgrims) to sign up with them, Makkah daily reported.
"Some companies exploit the photos of some scholars to promote their services, claiming they will be available to provide any needed guidance to Hajis without even providing the required basic services," the ministry added in a statement.
The official in charge of local pilgrims at the Ministry of Haj, Fayez Al-Barakati, said the ministry had in the past monitored some pilgrim companies that were advertising special services, a dedicated tent and private cars for Hajis.
"This is against regulations, because dedicating a whole tent for one Haji means other Hajis are deprived of the chance to perform Haj, especially as the ministry has assigned each pilgrim a 1.6 square-meter area," he said.
He assured that the ministry will monitor advertisements and violators will be referred to a special committee that will hand out an appropriate penalty.
He noted the ministry will also monitor the prices of Haj companies and has designated a specialized office to review and study prices, allowing it to ensure reasonable prices are charged in the future.
Al-Barakati explained Haj companies can only advertise their services after obtaining the necessary permits, and the advertisements should include the name of the company as listed in the commercial register and also the permit number, the number of assigned Hajis, and the address of the company in Mina.
Minister of Haj Bandar Hajjar said due to the success of the low-cost Haj program last season, the ministry has expanded the scheme to serve 41,000 Hajis this year instead of the 17,000 that benefited last year.
He added that citizens and residents can register for the program through the ministry’s website.
"The ministry has referred 52 companies who unfairly charged too much last season to a social committee that will decide how they will be penalized," he said.
Hajjar noted the ministry is reviewing its Haj contracts to make sure that they include the basic minimum required services and the maximum prices for such services.
"The number of local Hajis this year is expected to reach 168,000, of whom 41,000 will be included in the low-cost program," he said.
He pointed out the ministry has gone paperless when dealing with Haj companies to expedite procedures, adding that local pilgrim companies will be allowed to recruit seasonal workers during the pilgrimage season.