By MUHAMMED S. BAH
Ousman Jah, Chairman of the Gambia Hajj Commission, said the increment of the package for pilgrims is as a result of requirements by the Saudi Government and the increase in fuel prices.
Chairman Jah added that the fuel prices before were less than a Riyal; but that now, it has hiked to 2 Riyals; that other main factors are the introduction of the 5% Value Added Tax, VAT, on all services rendered to pilgrims and the current standardization of hotels and food; distance between hotels and Kaaba in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, and the duration of stay in Medina by pilgrims.
Jah also pointed out the imposition of the Saudi Government for tour operators to sign a contract with food caterers, in order to provide standard food for pilgrims.
“The Saudi Government will not issue visas if these conditions are not met,” Jah remarked; that operators have fulfilled these requirements Saudi Government will issue the visas.”
The Hajj Commissioner was addressing a batch of would be pilgrims at an orientation held at a Local Hotel in Banjul.
Last year the Hajj package was D210,000 and this year’s package is D290, 000 which the highest with some operators, with D280, 000; D270, 000; D260, 000 and D250, 000 among others. About 1,700 pilgrims are expected to depart from the Gambia for the Hajj this year.
On her part Aja Yandeh Faye, General Manager of the Banjul Travel Agency, advised pilgrims to adhere to the advice of their Hajj guides by following their instructions; that the Banjul Travel Agency will be facilitating the travel of 312 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year.
Other speakers at the orientation were Sherrif Tambedou, Chairman of Board of Directors of Banjul Travel Agency and Papa Njie, a board member. Both spoke about the increment in the package of this year’s Hajj and confirmed meeting of requirements for their Pilgrims. The-would be Pilgrims were as usual, taken through simulated Hajj obligations.
Six operators have been licensed to take part in Hajj operations this year. They are Gambia International Airlines, GIA, Banjul Travel Agency, BTA, Continental Travels Agency, CTA, Tivaon Travel Agency, TTA, Orbit Travel Agency, OTA, Travel Express Agency, TEA and Alpha Travels Gambia Limited, ATG Ltd.