By Shamim Saad
Over 31 hajj and several travel companies stand to lose billions of shillings in refunds to clients for whom they had booked hotels and airfare. This follows cancellation of travels to Mecca and Medina.
The devastating news comes after the Saudi Arabian government declared on October 11 that Ugandan Muslims who had planned to travel to Mecca would not go due to an earlier outbreak of Ebola haemmorrhagic fever in the country.
The Uganda hajj mission chairman, Sheikh Ibrahim Kiirya, said the Saudi Arabian government barred all Ugandan pilgrims from getting visas to Mecca because it got the report from Uganda’s Ministry of Health, declaring the country Ebola-free late after finalising this year’s hajj arrangements.
“We had booked Naas Airlines, which cost $120,000. Others were Emirates, Ethiopian and Qatar Airlines, in addition to the $65,000 for accommodation,” Kiirya said.
The Uganda Hajj Mission has made an appeal to all intending pilgrims to go to their respective offices and find out the status of their applications and the way forward.
However, Sheikh Nuhu Muzata, the owner of Muzata Hajj Company, said he is willing to compensate Muslims who had registered with his company although not at full cost because his firm had spent a lot of nonrefundable dues on hotel bookings.
“We shall refund their money after deducting the money used for hotel bookings. Whoever wants his money back will get it, but those who want to leave the money with us for next year’s pilgrimage will do so.
However, there is still hope for people to be compensated,” he added. The Uganda Hajj Mission also appealed to the Ugandan Government to write to the Saudi Arabian government to either refund their visa money or reconsider the for the 2013 pilgrimage.
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Travel firms bleed after flopped Mecca pilgrimage