islam-3782623_1920 Umrah
Eid Prayer at Kaaba pre COVID-19 times. For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: Saudi Arabia will lift the suspension of Umrah services and visits to the holy sites in a phased manner after nine months of closure due to the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, local media reported on Monday.

Mohammed Saleh Benten, Minister of Haj and Umrah, said: “The temporary suspension of Umrah pilgrimage and visits to the two holy mosques will be lifted in a phased manner.”

“The gradual resumption of Umrah and visits to the holly sites will rely on technical solutions that enable companies providing Umrah services to further improve their services as well as to promote themselves locally and globally,” he said while addressing the second virtual forum that aims to enrich the experience of Umrah pilgrims.

The minister pointed out that there will be more than 30 local and international companies that can handle the providing services for pilgrims through an electronic pathway that enables Umrah service providers to do the necessary follow-up while serving pilgrims.

He noted the merger of Umrah companies will make them stronger and more capable of providing high-quality services for some 16 million domestic and foreign Umrah pilgrims annually.

A new smart card will be issued for these companies during their transitional period and this card will be used first to serve visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque from within the Kingdom and abroad. “We aspire to serve 30 million pilgrims annually by the year 2030,” he added.

Abdul Fattah Mashat, Deputy Minister of Haj and Umrah, said that mergers and acquisitions in the Umrah sector will significantly reduce operational costs and contribute to increasing operational efficiency and diversification of services because of the increase in assets and financial capabilities.

“The Haj and Umrah system is not limited to the basic services provided to pilgrims, as there is a full package and wide array of services that can be provided by the private sector, such as support and logistical services, which will have a major role in achieving the goals of the Vision 2030,” he added.