Indonesian Hajj travel agents scramble to adapt to new system

Friday, June 17, 2022

Jakarta: Indonesian Hajj travel agents must adapt to Saudi Arabia’s new policy that enforces online booking for visiting Mecca, Syam Resfiadi, chairperson of the Indonesia Hajj and Umrah Travel Association (SAPUHI), said.

Resfiadi, who also owns Patuna Travel, told Salaam Gateway Saudi Arabia’s electronic system was forging ahead and all processes relating to Hajj applications will be done by non-face-to-face contact or phone.

This means the Indonesian government and travel agents must swiftly change their approach.

“Saudi has gone completely digital from contract payment for the hotel to catering, the bus and paying for tents in Mina and Arafah. Everything is done via an e-Hajj system and thereafter we print or save our e-visa through MoFA or Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website,” he said.

This year Patuna sent 270 pilgrims on Hajj, including 20 officers and crew, who were initially scheduled for 2020 as part of a 550-pilgrim contingent. However, the global COVID-19 pandemic has halted Hajj for the last two years.

The figure was lower than 2019 pre-pandemic level of 417 pilgrims including 19 officers and crew.

According to Resfiadi, the Saudi government intentionally reduced the quota to test the reliability of the new online system and gradually implement it into a full online service system. He anticipates the kingdom will boost Hajj visitors to around 15 million in the future.

The fee rate has significantly increased due to higher rents in Mina and Arafah. In 2019 the fee was around $400, but is currently between $2,133 and $4,800 depending on the package services. Tent space has increased from 0.9m2 to 1.2m2.

“There is not too much difference from pre-pandemic (days), except there are now more new transit hotels around Mecca and improved the services in Mina and Arafah. We accommodate up to VIP tents in Mina and Arafah, costing up to $4,800 and the facility is on a par with a five-star hotel,” Resfiadi added.

Patuna has already received 4,000 Hajj bookings with Resfiadi indicating the company must remain updated on the current Hajj policies and systems as well as the kingdom’s projections for Hajj visitors to reach 15 million.

“We must be ready for their future plans and are waiting for them to reveal their updated vision and mission regarding Hajj activities. When the quota increases from the current 1 million pilgrims to 15 million, how will the tent be constructed? Will it be just a storeyed tent or storeyed building?” Resfiadi concluded.