No vaccination, no pilgrimage to Mecca. Saudi Arabia makes vaccination mandatory for Muslims participating in the hajj this year. The Dutch trade association for travel agencies that offer the annual pilgrimage tour sees it as a ray of hope.
“This is already a step forward,” says Said il Amraou of Hadj Info. “It has been a disastrous year for the religious travel industry. Now the travel agents can orientate and prepare again.”
Besides for the companies, it also offers hope for Muslims who hope to complete the holy journey. For example, Aimad Bennouho had booked for last year’s hajj and ultimately opted for a voucher. “This message gives the travel agents more clarity, but for us it remains exciting.”
Due to the corona crisis last year, not a single non-Saudi Muslim was able to complete the hajj. A financial setback for the host country: pilgrims normally bring in about $ 12 billion annually, which is eight percent of the gross national product.
Naturally, it also affected the Dutch providers of these pilgrimages. The 35 travel agencies for the ‘big’ pilgrimage (hajj) and the ‘small’ (umrah) had little or no turnover in 2020. Despite this, there are no bankruptcies known at Hadj Info. In addition to corona emergency support for entrepreneurs, there are several reasons for this, according to Amraou.
First of all, according to her, the companies are often family businesses, with few additional staff. Second, they can still live on the profit margins achieved on the pilgrimage journeys before the corona crisis. “That means that travel agents have built a fortune. A dramatic year will not quickly lead to bankruptcy.”
Time is running out
The future of these companies depends on how many pilgrims Saudi Arabia will allow again. In 2019, 4,700 Muslims from the Netherlands were allowed to Mecca. Last year there were zero and it is still unknown for this year. As the hajj will soon be from 17 to 22 July, time is running out.
“I don’t think Saudi Arabia will ever allow the same numbers as before in the coming years,” Bennouho said. He fears that as a result far fewer people will be able to go on hajj. While the fulfillment of this pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam.
‘Had some motivation for vaccination’
Despite all the prospects, Bennouho gives a 50 percent chance that he and his wife will be able to go anyway. If it succeeds, there is one thing he dreads: compulsory vaccination. “I am very much against that.” The 34-year-old had already expected that Saudi Arabia would introduce this as a condition for the hajj.
Under normal circumstances, Bennouho said he would never have himself vaccinated against covid-19. “I’m not a conspiracy wappie, I don’t even get paracetamol with a popping headache. The hajj is the only motivation for me to get vaccinated anyway.”
Hajj is only allowed after corona pep, ‘first step after a disastrous year of pilgrimage industry’
Source link Hajj is only allowed after corona pep, ‘first step after a disastrous year of pilgrimage industry’