From Suleiman Idris in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The Hajj and Umrah authority in Saudi Arabia said having successfully carried out the 2019 hajj exercise, it is set to issue 10 million electronic visas to pilgrims planning for the Umrah season in order to ensure the visitors are spared they stress of physically visiting any of its embassy to obtain the document.
The Chief Planning and Strategy Officer of the Kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, said the visas will be issued electronically without the need to visit embassies and consulates for the stamp.
Al-Maddah added that his ministry also aims to dole out Umrah visas for 30 million pilgrims by 2030 affirming that Saudi Arabia has the capacity for the numbers just as the Hajj and Umrah aims to remove obstacles for businesses offering services to pilgrims.
He said, “The target number of pilgrims in 1442 AH (2021) will be 15 million. The ministry is well-prepared for these cumulative numbers, and pilgrims now have several e-booking platforms that continue to increase and are no longer limited to external agents.”
“The central reservation platform is a reservation engine that serves as a link connecting all Umrah service providers, including housing, Umrah, reception, transport, experience enrichment, and cultural trips associated with online booking platforms like Agoda, Booking, Musafir and others.”
He explained that, “This way, the ministry ensures that all services are available to pilgrims inside and outside the Kingdom through the internet and reliable websites, which pilgrims are accustomed to using when making their bookings. The ministry will ensure that all offers adhere to the set standards and regulatory requirements.”
According to him “this will also guarantee that the ministry receives the pilgrims’ correct information.”
He said: “This is a mechanism through which the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah organizes the process of purchasing services and packages, which were previously purchased from tourist offices with insufficient information, through the internet and with comprehensive surveillance.”
“Pilgrims will be provided with a reference number when they buy a package from these online platforms. This will allow them to obtain an e-visa without the need to visit embassies and consulates to get a stamp because their visas are now electronic, which has been prepared since the last month of the previous Hajj season.”
However he cautioned that there are certain cases that will require pilgrims to visit embassies and consulates, but most applicants will complete their procedures electronically.
He added that pilgrims will be require to access online platforms such as Agoda, Booking, Holiday Inn or Maqam, and select the suitable package offered by tour operators and Umrah companies, or they can design their own program, including the time of arrival and the rest of the bookings and services. When completed, they can enter their data and online payment details to receive the reference number to obtain the e-visa immediately.