Groups accused of overcharging hajj pilgrims

Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on July 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

Tour companies approved by the Islamic Ministry to escort Maldivians on hajj pilgrimage this year have been accused of overcharging clients.

Three private tour groups have been approved by the Islamic Ministry to escort hajj pilgrims this year. They are:

  • Al Haramain Hajj and Umrah Company Maldives Pvt. Ltd.: MVR 75,465
  • Sisilfaru Hajj and Umrah Pvt. Ltd.: MVR 75,250
  • Al Manasik Pvt. Ltd.: MVR 75,000

The rates approved by the Islamic Ministry for all three groups do not exceed MVR 76,000. Each of the three groups received 90 quotas, while the state-run Maldives Hajj Corporation received 1,000.

Hajj Corporation has a huge backlog of people who have already made their payments, leading to people having to wait for years to make the hajj pilgrimage. People who wish to perform the holy pilgrimage sooner need to procure the services of private tour groups.

Several sources who have paid private groups for hajj pilgrimage this year report they were overcharged.

One source told Sun tour groups he had previously been in talks with had pushed up their rates to over MVR 100,000 now.

“When I last called, they said they were charging MVR 150,000 per pilgrim. They doubled the rate,” he said.

Groups claim they are forced to charge pilgrims a higher rate because they aren’t confirmed quotas beforehand. They argue it costs more to book hotels and arrange transportations at the last minute.

However, when bidding was reopened earlier this year, groups had the chance to quote between MVR 75,000 and MVR 95,000. They therefore had a chance to quote a rate that better reflected their expenses.

Islamic Ministry was not immediately available for comment regarding the issue.