They said the agencies suffered immense financial losses following the Jan. 25 revolution, which caused a sharp drop in the number of tourists coming to Egypt from Europe, America, Russia, Southeast Asia and others.
Providing Haj services has enabled a number of travel and tourist agencies to compensate some of the financial losses they have incurred since the influx of Western tourists has sharply dwindled following the political incidents in the country, said Ashraf Shiha, deputy chairman of the chamber of Egypt's travel and tourism agencies.
He said more than 600,000 Egyptians performed Umrah during the past Ramadan, registering a record number. The travel and tourist agencies divided the proceeds among themselves making good gains, especially since the Umrah costs per individual have reached more than $2,000, he added. Shiha said during this Haj season, the travel and tourist agencies have done good business thanks to the cancellation of the obligatory donations for the Haj visa this year.
Every pilgrim used to pay 12,000 Egyptian pounds in order to have the Haj visa stamped on his passport, he added. He explained that these payments amounted to more than 120 million Egyptian pounds, although Saudi Arabia was giving the visas free of charge. Shiha said before the cancellation of the obligatory visa payments, the cost of Haj per individual Egyptian pilgrim amounted to more than 35,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately $6,000). He expected more Egyptians to perform Haj this year after the abolishment of the Haj visa fees. He said the Egyptian pilgrims would use the money they save from the visa charges to spend on their personal purchases in the Kingdom.
The Egyptian pilgrims can now easily buy gifts from Makkah and Madinah for relatives and friends back home, he said. Shiha asked the Egyptian government to entrust the Haj services to the travel and tourist agencies alone and not to the ministries of interior and social security. Egyptian pilgrims also expect better services from their government following the Jan. 25 revolution. We would like to have similar positive changes in pilgrim services as the Tunisians enjoy, said Hamam Al-Aswani, a travel agent engaged in pilgrim services.