Gulf natives can travel to the Saudi kingdom without a problem
Tour companies in the UAE state that the current visa ban will affect only Gulf expats during Umrah while the tourism authorities in Saudi Arabia refuse to comment on it.
This conclusion was confirmed by Al-Ansar Hajj and Umrah Tourism out of Abu Dhabi, who noted that the ban remains in effect until February of next year.
An operator in the visa sector at Al-Ansar stated only Emiratis or natives of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait or Oman would be able to receive a tourism visa to enter Saudi Arabia. Mohammed Faud also noted that if you are officially invited by the Kingdom you may be able to, but that would require an approval process.
Besides this group, no visas were issued after August 10, which falls near Sha’ban, month eight in the lunar calendar of Islam. Faud said that this happens annually to staunch the flow of tourists arriving near Madinah.
Ashraf Handi, a representative of Abu Dhabi’s tour operator Al-Manar for Hajj and Umrah Service, confirmed the dates stating that the block on visas was a temporary regulation and would continue to be enforced until February of next year unless the company is told something different.
There was a major rise is tourist arrivals throughout 2009 according to the Commission for Tourism and Antiques in Saudi Arabia, up from 6,000 applications in 2008 to last year’s total of 20,000.
Eisa Rawas, Saudi’s Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Affairs, stated in local media reports that almost four million global pilgrims had received visas over a nine month period and were coming in from all over.
This increase in tourism has caused an incredible 200 percent rise in the price of certain hotel rooms throughout Ramadan.
Faud says that their company offers Umrah packages over Ramadan that cover a five day period. If that trip is booked during the last five days of the festival (from September 4 to 9), the double accommodations for two at five-star Grand Zamzam would carry a price tag of Dh20,000.
Those that travel beyond Eid will pay Dh5,000 less for the room.
It is surprising that the cost of flights has stayed the same. Nas Air is offering return flights within the five-day period above from Dh2,100 and Emirates is charging Dh2,380.
Disgruntled would-be travelers are not happy with the steady price of flights though. Ahmed Owais of the UAE noted that an affordable airline ticket isn’t any good without a visa to enter the Kingdom. Owais has lived in the UAE for three decades.Andrew Reid, Staff Writer, Gulf Jobs Market News