Demand, crowded Mecca lodgings drive up hajj prices

Sunday, 14 November 2010 22:19 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, (AFP) - A tight supply in accommodation in Mecca and overcrowding are driving up the price of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest city.

For everyone, from the poorest Muslims dependent on government-subsidised budget packages to the wealthy who stay in five-star hotels, costs have been rising an average of three to five percent a year. According to government officials and tour agents, prices for some categories of hajjis have gone up by more than 15 percent this year.

But with the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims obliged by religious duty to attempt the trip, and host Saudi Arabia only able to accept about 2.5 million a year, the rising cost is not having any impact on demand.

“Rents in Mecca and Medina have shot up, food is very expensive too, but there is still a surge in the number of hajj applications from India,” said Shah Nawaz of Atlas Tours and Travels in Mumbai.

One of their faith’s five pillars, Muslims are required to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if possible.