Hajj, Umrah companies in distress

Hit by worst post August 2019 slump, the beleaguered Hajj and Umrah companies in Kashmir are bracing for worse in the wake of worldwide lockdown after covid19 outbreak.

The company owners said that in the post August 2019 clampdown period, they were trying to get to their business, but the outbreak of covid19 “has crippled us for the second time in less than a year”.

They said since the international flights were discontinued across India last month, “thousands of Umrah bookings were cancelled inflicting losses worth crores of rupees on the sector”.

“In the past few weeks over 100 bookings in my company were cancelled and all the future bookings vanished,” said Javaid Ahmed, owner Raj Baba Tours and Travels. “We have already paid for visas, hotels and air tickets; and now both the costumers and the operators are in lurch,” he said.

Ahmed said there are over 100 private Hajj and Umrah operators in Kashmir “and all of them had their bookings cancelled. We hope things will be normal soon and everyone will get back to his business”.

The operators said that as per the Saudi Hajj Authority guidelines, they have been told that no fresh bookings be made unless instructed.

“There are hundreds of employees in these companies. There could be layoffs given the situation post August 2019. There is no hope for any fresh bookings due to covid19 scare,” said another Umrah company operator.

Following the growing COVID-19 cases in India, Government last month banned all international flights to and from India to curb the spread. Saudi Arabia also suspended round the year Umrah pilgrimage from the first week of March in order to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The suspension of holy pilgrimage led to cancellation of Umrah booking in Kashmir and all over the world.