Umrah pilgrims will only be able to stay in the Kingdom for a maximum 15 days, according to new rules proposed by the Hajj Ministry.
Under these new rules, the service-providing companies were advised against bringing in large batches of Umrah pilgrims at any one time, especially during Ramadan.
The ministry also asked them to inform it of any change in accommodation arrangements for their pilgrims.
Al-Madinah daily reported on Monday that the ministry communicated these proposed rules to the companies to obtain their opinions and asked them to send their feedback within a week.
The ministry said after receiving the observations and remarks of the companies, it will draft its new Umrah rules that will be implemented from the next season, which starts in December.
Hajj Minister Bandar Hajjar met in Madinah on Sunday with the government and private sector companies in charge of the Umrah pilgrims.
Meanwhile, Hajjar directed his ministry to study a file presented to him by the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah that contained proposals to upgrade the services provided to Umrah pilgrims.
The chairman of the committee, Osama Bin Yahya Filali, said the file contained four main sections that outlined the work to be carried out by the pilgrims themselves, their foreign agents, the Umrah companies and the Hajj Ministry.
The minister on Sunday met in Makkah with the owners and directors of the Umrah companies.
This was his first meeting with them since he has assumed his portfolio in which he discussed with them all the services to be extended to the pilgrims to make their hajj comfortable.
"We are thankful to the minister for the meeting, during which he has favorably responded to many of our demands," Filali said.
SR150m company eyed to transport domestic pilgrims
The head of the transport committee at Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry said local pilgrim companies have begun a feasibility study to set up a transport company with a capital of SR150 million.
Saad Al-Qurashi told Makkah daily one of the main objectives and priorities of the company is to solve the annual problem of renting buses from other countries.
He pointed out local pilgrim companies this year have contracted with specialized land transport companies from Egypt, due to the events in Syria and Turkey, and that the cost of these rented buses have exceeded SR70 ($19) million.
He said: “The local pilgrims transport sector has to transport around 105,000 people from different areas in the Kingdom to the Holy Sites.
“This requires around 2,900 buses, of which 820 will be assigned for the transportation of those on low-cost programs.”
Al-Qurashi explained that negotiations were completed with three Egyptian transport companies to provide buses at a cost of SR20,000 to SR25,000 for each vehicle, including drivers for the whole hajj season.
Normally, local transport companies charge SR35,000 to SR50,000 a bus.
He said these buses would arrive in the Kingdom through the Dhiba and Nuwaibei seaports.
He added 11 flights from different airports in the Kingdom have been booked to transport local pilgrims.
This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014.