Anxious few days ahead for Hajj pilgrims and travel agents

Published: 16 June 2022, 2:06 AM

Thousands of Muslims hoping to make a pilgrimage to Makkah are waiting anxiously for some positive news from their travel agents and tour operators.

To this date, the only route to Hajj for 2022 seems to be via the online portal run by the Saudi-based company, Motawif (www.motawif.com.sa).

Motawif is the exclusive online platform authorised by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to offer Hajj services to Muslims in Europe, America, and Australia for the 1443 – 2022 Hajj season. Potential pilgrims have been encouraged to upload their interest. Subsequently, names will be drawn and successful applicants would be notified in due course. Furthermore, this booking portal is now closed and Motawif have indicated that they have started notifying successful applicants as of 15th June 2022. They will continue to contact successful applicants until all the quotas have been filled (approximately 3000-3500 Hajj visas).

However, concern have been raised over the lack of information and communication from the Hajj Ministry for the existing travel agents and tour operators that were on their “Approved Agents” list and have been taking money and bookings from customers.

Everyone in the industry are worried that the sudden change from booking with tour operators to an online portal would have a major impact to UK businesses. Furthermore, Trading Standards and other law enforcement agencies are on alert for potential scams from those trying to exploit this situation.

This year marks the return of the religious event, which was been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19. However, some bookings have not asked for their money back and deferred their wishes to go Hajj in 2022, only to find out that the travel agents that were legitimate in 2019/2020, may not be approved in 2022. Hajj 1443 – 2022 starts from 7th to 12th July and normally, chartered flights with Hajj pilgrims would have started by now.

What are the safeguarding for pilgrim that have departed their money to the agents?

Consumer law states that people should get their refunds within 14 days of being notified that they are no longer eligible for Hajj 2022. The ATOL protection (insurance) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) only kicks in when the travel agent/tour operator goes bust. Otherwise you must continue to pursue the travel agent/tour operator.

Who can help you?

The Citizens Advice Consumer Service (CACS) gives advice on many issues including package travel. You can contact the service on 0345 4043 0506 or visit the CACS website www.adviceguide.org.uk

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has useful information and advice on its website at www.fco.gov.uk and can help with some emergencies while you are abroad.

Trading Standards Departments are responsible for enforcing a wide range of consumer protection  legislation  including the Package Travel, and Linked Travel and Arrangements Regulations 2018 which apply to Hajj and Umrah packages. If you want to report a problem you can do so through the Citizens Advice Consumer Service, which works in partnership with Trading Standards and will pass on details of your complaint. Trading  Standards  may  then  contact  you directly but even if they do not, the information received from Citizens Advice is used to make sure that businesses behave fairly and do not break the law.

If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud, please report it to Action Fraud as well by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting the website www.actionfraud.police.uk