‘Check out private tour operators before booking for Haj’

August 26th, 2008 - 10:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Aug 26 (IANS) Haj tour operators’ association Tuesday asked aspiring pilgrims to verify the credentials of private travel agencies before booking for pilgrimage with them.All India Haj Umrah Tour Organisers’ Association (AIHUTOA) chairman Ehrahim H. Kolsawala said since the Supreme Court Monday dismissed a plea by a group of unrecognised operators, it would be in the best interest of all pilgrims to go to Saudi Arabia only through the services offered by the recognised private operators.

Addressing reporters here Tuesday evening, Kolsawala urged all intending pilgrims to check whether the tour operators were registered with the Indian government as well as the Haj Ministry of Saudi Arabia.

Presently, 157,000 pilgrims go to perform Haj annually, of which 110,000 go through the Haj Committee and the rest through private operators.

He pointed out that while the registered private operators charge a uniform rate of Rs.150,000 per pilgrim for the all-inclusive 40-day pilgrimage package, the unregistered ones had fluctuating rates depending on the demands of the pilgrims.

Seeing the sudden spurt in growth of this lucrative, niche religious pilgrimage segment, since the past couple of years, nearly 550 new operators have mushroomed all over India and applied for registration with the concerned authorities, Kolsawala pointed out.

He added that details of all the registered private operators are listed on www.mea.gov.in and www.hajinformation.com, which prospective pilgrims can refer to before planning their programme.

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