Umrah packages cost to go up

KUALA LUMPUR: A price hike of up to an additional RM1,000 per person on umrah packages is unavoidable following Saudi Arabia's decision to increase the visa fee and impose a 5% value-added tax.

According to Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) deputy president Mohd Akil Mohd Yusof, the authorities also barred agents from making direct bookings with hotels and transport operators there.

He said following the move, MATTA agents could no longer offer the minimum RM4,999 umrah package.

"Effective this month, agents offering umrah packages worldwide are compelled to book accommodations, transportation and apply for the visa through Saudi Arabia's Maqam online application system.

"This caused the transportation cost to increase from RM4,500 per bus to about RM6,500.

"The fee also keeps changing every day and this fluctuation made it difficult for us to fix a price," he said in a press conference here yesterday.

The Saudi government recently announced that the visa fee for umrah has increased from 200 riyal (RM230) to 300 riyal (RM350). Mohd Akil hoped their customers would understand the situation.

"We must follow the latest directives from Saudi's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

"We are also appealing to the Tourism Ministry to review the bottom price for umrah packages in view of the new rulings," he said.

The ministry also imposed a RM500 annual fee on tour agents applying for an umrah licence.