By Tasaduq Hussain
Srinagar: Welcoming the resumption of Umrah services, people associated with the sector Wednesday said that they have suffered huge losses in the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision and has ignited hopes of good days ahead among them.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced the resumption of Umrah service for pilgrims from India.
Expressing their satisfaction and hope, Parvaiz Ahmad Bhat, Vice President of Jammu Kashmir Association Of Haj and Umrah Companies (JKAHUC) said that they expect a good season ahead and the decision has ignited hope among all those associated with the sector.
Bhat said that the resumption of Umrah services is a welcome step and both people and Private Tour Operators (PTO’s) are happy with the decision.
“The people associated with the sector are more thrilled given the losses suffered in the past two consecutive years. We see this decision as a revival of business post-COVID-19 pandemic,” Bhat said
“Looking at this sector and its expansion and success in the past decade it had gone up to Rs 900 crore from 300 crore turnover,” he said.
“COVID-19 cast a shadow on air connectivity which is the backbone of this sector and it would have possibly crossed Rs 1000 crore mark had there been no pandemic in the world,” Bhat said.
Bhat said that though Covid has left its impact, it is a new revival and it cannot be expected that the number of pilgrims will be the same as it used to be before the pandemic.
“The complete revival like previous business years will take time,” he said.
About the threat of the Omicron variant, Bhat said that the services and pilgrims will operate through exclusive Apps available and all the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP’s) related to Omicron will be as per the Saudi government.
Bhat informed that the pilgrims from Kashmir Valley will have to undergo RT-PCR sampling (not older than 48 hours) ahead of departure and the Saudi government has developed an application to ensure all details of pilgrims are collected including vaccination.
“All the arrangements and plans are being made keeping in view the Omicron variant on the pattern of the guidelines laid by the Saudi government for pilgrims,” he said.
People of the valley have also hailed the decision of the Saudi government saying that they will be able to perform Umrah after two years. (KNO)