Hajj: Hajj Tour Operators

Many of you have read about my Hajj experience and without a doubt it was amazing and I have no complaints about Hajj, how can you have a complaint about the Hajj itself when you are the guest of Allah? Having said that, when you pay for a service you have to demand what you pay for and you expect that those from whom you have purchased the service from give you what you have paid for. This is true in secular law and it is equally true in the fiqh (jurisprudence) of trade. People invest a substantial amount of money and an immense amount of emotion to make this trip and those providing the service should not take this lightly.

People are correct when they say that Hajj is not a holiday and people should not consider it as such and people are correct to say that as a hajji you have to put up with hardship and discomfort for Hajj is difficult and physically demanding and things don’t always go to plan. However, this should not be seen as a license for Hajj Tour Operators (HTOs) to take advantage of the situation in order to maximise their profits. Let’s face it, most HTOs are in it to earn money and to make a profit, they are businesses not charities. This is a lucrative business, my guess is that most HTOs earn upwards of £500 per hajji in most cases, if you have 200 hajjis in your group that is a cool £100,000 on a turnover of about £400,000 (if the average is £2000 per haji). Now, no one begrudges a businessman his fair dues, I don’t care if they earn £500 per hajji or £1000 per hajji, what I do have a problem with is cutting corners to maximise profits and this is an activity most HTOs indulge in. The biggest cost for the Hajj is the accommodation since you need between two and four if not five weeks of accommodation depending on which package you take and this is where HTOs can manipulate the situation to their advantage. The trick here is that when they block book a hotel the HTO pays a flat rate but the more people the HTO can squeeze in the more money he makes, the maths is simple. A room costs £50 per night (and I seriously doubt it is that much) and £600 for 14 days. If the HTO can get 5 hajjis in there the affective cost is £10 per hajji per day and £140 for the 14 days. Flight cost is no more than £600 probably cheaper since these are chartered flights and accommodation in Madina is probably no more than £300 at the most for a week. Most HTOs don’t include food or Qurbani.

I knocked up a little spreadsheet to give me an idea of how they save money, this is based on an “economy” package as HTOs like to call it but with some of them you get the same package no matter how much you paid (as was the case in our group).

My spreadsheet is based on 1 to 5 people sharing a room, that’s right 5 people sharing a room, sometimes you get 6 sharing a room. The way it works is that a room that is normally a single occupancy they will get three people in and try and squeeze in a fourth, in a double room they will squeeze from 4 up to 6 people and these rooms are not big by any stretch of the imagination:

Economies of scale
Item £ per person 2 people 4 people 5 people
Flight 600 1200 2400 3000
Accommodation Madina (7 days) 280 140 70 56
Accommodation Makkah (14 days) 350 140 87.5 70
Excursions 60 60 60 60
Costs Totals 1290 1575 2617.50 3186
Price of Trip to hajji 2000 4000 8000 10000
Gross Profit 710 2425 5382.50 6814

Ok, I know it is over simplified, I know it is probably inaccurate and I know there are other expenses HTOs have but it is just to give you an idea of the economies of scale these guys are working with. I am overestimating some of the figures particularly the accommodation, since based on my experience the accommodation that my family got (in Makkah) was barely even third world standards and there is no way that it would cost anything more than £15 per night at best (and I am being really generous).

I know that a good deal of effort goes into organising the Hajj trips and there are good HTOs out there but this whole industry needs a good shake up and regulation. There should be some kind of accreditation scheme and some auditing and review of services every few years. Like with most things the bad ones always give the good ones a bad name.

As I said before, so much emotion is invested in Hajj and the HTOs will use emotional blackmail to keep you quiet saying things like “Hajji sabr”, “Hajj is supposed to be difficult”, “Don’t spoil your Hajj by complaining”, “you are not on holiday what do you expect?” and other choice phrases that is designed deflect any challenge to them.

There are two issues here and don’t be fooled by a HTO trying to blur them. Firstly there is the Hajj itself and secondly there is the service you purchase to get you there, the two are not the same, you do not buy a Hajj and the HTO does not sell you a Hajj. The HTO wants you to believe that it is one and the same so they can shirk their duties and obligations towards you under the “Hajj is difficult/these things happen in Hajj” catch all phrase. Don’t be fooled. If they run a business then they should be responsible for the service they provide or fail to provide. Under UK law they are no different to a holiday package tour operator, the service expectation is the same.

If you have been to Hajj whether it is this year or in previous years and you feel you have been dealt a poor service or didn’t get what you paid for, or were placed in accommodation that put your health, well being and safety at risk, then you should make a report to your local trading standards authority.

We spoke to a representative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who was in Makkah about our predicament and he told us that every year they get 100s of complaints from Hajjis in Saudi but when they return to the UK hardly anyone pursues the matter further and this makes matters worse for future Hajjis because nothing gets done and standards don’t improve.

Interestingly there was a programme aired today on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours Programme about this very issue, they had Gareth Thomas Consumer Minister on who was discuss, ing the problems with rogue operators, you can here today’s programme on the You and Yours micro site on the BBC website.

Be Sociable, Share!

6 thoughts on “Hajj: Hajj Tour Operators”

  1. so which HTO was it……not dome tours i hope..?? i was on hajj this year (or shall i say last year, let’s just say hajj 1428) and have already made intentions to go back for hajj 1429, but won’t be using the company i used this time………definitely not, so i’m out trying to find myself a better HTO for my next trip.

    ——-

    Mas’ud: I am not in a position to name the company in question since there is a case open with Trading Standards and there could well be a legal case, however, it was not Dome Tours.

  2. I couldnt agree with you more. I went to Hajj the year before last. Our tent in Mina was so packed that i had to walk around to find room in other tents. The other muslims in the other tents didnt seem very welcoming so i ended up back in a tent which had a limit of around 20 but there was at least 30 people in there. A lot of the elders bickered about it all night. I dont want to give too much details about the hotel conditions but what i will say is the name was Golden Palace-The name was the biggest con i have had in my life. One of the elders in our camp insisted that when we get back to England we should complain to the authorities. I didnt feel like doing it as i wanted to remember and focus on the important and postives aspects of my trip. After reading your blog i am starting to think that maybe we should do something about this issue. Why should others go through what we had to encounter. If you pay ?2,000 to a company then they should do their job fairly as im sure they would have made around ?700 profit on us based on Bro Masuds figures.

  3. in response to those companies/ or ( cowboy outfits) i think all those who have had a shoddy service must begin to complain and only through naming and shaming can we stop bad practice by these tour operators. i am in favour of making a decent buck but not at the cost of paying good money for a bad service.
    Its a pity and shame instead of us muslims setting standards in good business ethics we are instead following corrupt and un ethical ways to make profits.

  4. FOR ALL TO KNOW: FOUND ONLINE –

    BARKET TRAVEL AND TOURS IS OFFICIALLY ON THE HAJJ SCAM LIST>>>BE AWARE

    “Salam All, I went last yr with Barket Travel & Tours it was very bad and I hope no one is ever in my place. Before leaving the country we were all handed our passports back with Hajj visa’s etc. One of the brothers that was going on Hajj with the group noticed his Visa was smudged at no fault of his own (as the tour operator was in charge of obtaining visa’s and held onto the passports till departure day). This brother concerned with the smudge approached the tour operator who made it clear it would be impossible for him to enter Saudia Arabia with a smudged visa. This brother not knowing what to do was advised to remain in the UK and have his visa sorted out whilst the rest of the group along with the tour operator flew out on Hajj. And to top it all off the brother had to pay out of his own pocket to stay in a hotel near by the airport till his visa was sorted out (as he lived far away from the airport). This is something the tour operator should have taken charge of and made sure an error on his part (whether during obtaining the visa or after obtaining the visa – got smudged) was resolved with no expense from the customer – being a business providing a service.

    During the sales pitch we were told we would be at the Grand Shubeika Hotel in Makkah which was slightly more closer (considering the traffic caused by people) – however this wasn’t to be.

    We were told the Ziyara will be done in English to accommodate the people in the group like myself who were not from the urdu speaking community – however this was not meant to be. It was in Urdu, so myself and a few others had to rely on fellow Hajji’s to translate as much as possible.

    The food wasn’t any good (provided by tour operator), and gave me stomach problem day 1. Since then we (myself and friends) ate outside, although at times we did eat in at the hotel. The whole wisdom behind getting an all-inclusive package was so that we would not waste time queuing at the shops for food, instead we would have food at the hotel.

    Whilst all other hotels had tea/coffee available 24 hours in their hotels our tour group decided to restrict this service to after fajr, asr, and isha – even though we payed for an all-inclusive package.

    Lack of customer service, considering we were paying for a service the management and staff would talk down to people and when they got a reaction – they pulled out the ‘sabr’ card.

    We were promised the groups fiqh lessons/classes during the build up and during Hajj would be in English with an English speaking scholar however all the classes were in Urdu and the scholar was essentially reading out of a book called Virtues of Hajj by Shaykh Zakariya Khandhelwi – which I read beforehand anyway (alhamdulillah).

    We were told the scholar would be a fluent english speaking scholar, however the scholar wasn’t fluent in English, he could just about speak English!

    Everything our group did was always last minute – going to Arafat, going to Muzdalifah, going for Jamarat. Going last always meant we ended up forfeiting decent places to stay and/or rest.

    Our transport was always arriving late. Especially transport to Madina for which we had to wait and be on standby for almost 2 whole days. The management team had no clue of what was happening and would not communicate anything to the group about transport to Madina.

    Our Qurbani did not happen on the 1st day of stoning. Even though we headed back to Makkah to do our Tawaf Ziyara etc in hope that by the time we finish our qurbani would be done so we can come out of Ihram. Due to us being the last group again, the qurbani was put off till the following day so we had to stay in ihram for an extra night – which we did not mind. However our problem was that, being first timers on Hajj we did not know our way back to Mina from Makkah. The whole group was stranded in Makkah and the tour group was not willing to provide transport or a guide (even though they messed up on the Qurbani) for those people that wanted to go back to Mina. The tour group then got the ‘Mufti’ to reassure everyone that they could stay in Makkah for the night even though it was an emphasised sunnah to go back to Mina.

    The following day after the Qurbani was done and people came out of Ihram they were told a bus would be ready to transport the group to Jamarat for stoning after Asr. Again being gullible the whole group trusted the tour operator however there was no transport. The tour group was relying on catching ‘public’ transport to jamarat with old women, and young sisters amongst the group. Some of the women relied being pushed in wheelchairs. Waiting for public transport there was a huge queue which lead to a lot of pushing and shoving and at one point almost a fight between our group and other groups. This was all going on whilst the tour operator could not organise transport and stood by hoping somebody would sort this mess out for them.

    In Madina we stayed in Wasel Palace which is a 4 star hotel not too far from the Masjid. However the toilet facilities were not decent at all. During the sales pitch myself and 3 other friends were told we would have en-suite bathroom. Instead we ended up sharing a communal bathroom between another room which hindered us all when wanting a shower, doing wudhu, or wanting to use the toilet facilities.

    The tour operator was not available during our stay in Madina to express our views about the toilet facilities nor any other concerns we may have, instead he was taking another group to Masjid al-Aqsa (a trip upon which more people complained they had problems).”

  5. TOTALLY SATISFIED Hajj 2008 With BARKET TRAVEL & TOURS
    (Imam MOLANA BODIYAT).
    (VIEW OTHER SATISFIED REVIEWS ON HAJJBUDDY.COM)

    WE ARE VERY PLEASED THAT WE WERE RECOMMONDED BARKET TRAVEL HAJJ GROUP AS OUR ORGANISOR FOR HAJJ. WE ALL 11 OF US WERE WELL PLEASED AND VERY HAPPY TO BE PART OF BARKET HAJJ GROUP.

    FROM START WE WERE PLEASE THAT THEY ARRANGEMENTS FOR LAND TRAVEL WERE IN PLACE AND THEY WERE DOBE THRU HIGHLY REPUTABLE COMPANY ie EXPRESS OF BATLEY / ATLANTIC 5 STAR COACHES. WE DEPARTED ON TIME AND UNDER FIRM SUPERVISION BY THE ORGANISOR MR YUSUF ELLAM of BARKET TRAVEL & TOURS.

    WE WERE WELL INFORMED OF ALL THE DAILY ITINARY. UPON ARRIVAL AT hEATHROW T-3 WE WERE ALL INFORMED AS TO HOW WE WOULD CHECK-IN AND ALSO THE PROCEDURE WITH IMMIGRATION. THRUTHFULLY WE WERE ALL HAPPY TO KNOW THAT WE WERE TAKEN GOOD CARE OFF, AS IT WAS MENTIONED IN THEIR ADVERTISEMENT. WE HAD A OVERNIGHT STAY IN AMMAN WITH FULL BOARD, AT AIRLNES EXPENSE, IT WAS NICE TO HEAR AND TO TAKE NOTE THAT MR ELLAM of BARKET TRAVEL & TOURS DID NOT MISINFORM US THAT THE EXPENSES WERE TAKEN CARE OF BY HIM, BUT HE STATED THE TRUTH THE THE HOTEL ARRANGEMENTS WERE AT AIRLINES EXPENSE DUE TO LONG CONNECTION TO JEDDAH.

    WHEN WE ARRAIVED AT JEDDAH, THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME FOR ALL US AND TO NOTE THAT AFTER THE MISFORMED BY FRIENDS THAT WE WOULD ENCOUNTER LOTS OF PROBLEMS, WE DID NOT ACQUIRE ANY PROBLEMS, THE PROFESSIONALISM OF MR ELLAM OF OURSTANDING AS HE HAS OUR IMMIGRATION CARDS FILLED AND HE WENT THRU FIRST AND HE WAITED UPON ALL OF US TO COMPLETE OUR IMMIGRATION AND HAJJ FORMALITIES WITH THE MINISTRY PEOPLE. LASTLY JUST BEFORE TYHR DRAFT ADMINISTRATION MR ELLAM WAS THEIR TO PROVIDE CLEAR DIRECTIONS TO EVERY ONE IN BARKET HAJJ GROUP. WITHIN 2 HRS FROM FINISHING GRAFT FORMALITIES , WE WERE ON A BUS WITH OUR LUGGAGE ON TOP SECURELY SECURED BY THE AUTHORITIES. WE WERE ON OUR WAY TO MEDINAH MUNAWWARAH.

    UPON OUR ARRIVAL IN MEDINAH, WE WERE ALL VERY VERY PLEASE TO NOTE THAT WHAT HAD BEEN INFORMED BY MR ELLAM WAS THE TRUTH, THE HOTEL WAS A STONE THORW AWAY. AND THE ROOMS WERE BIG AND THE BATHROOM WAS BIG AS THE BEDROOM. THE FOOD WAS EXCELLENT, WITH BUFFET OF ALL THE MEALS. THE TASTE WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. ( GOOD ).. THE ZIYARAAT OF MEDINAH WAS VERY GOOD AND INFORMATIVE.

    EVERY DAY ISLAMIC INFORMATION INRESPECT OF HAJJ AND THE SUNNAT WAS READ BY THE SHEIKH, AFTER ASAR SALAT. THERE WAS NO RESTRICTION PLACED BY BARKET HAJJ GROUP TO ANYONE, WE WERE INFORMED OF THE PROGRAM AND IT WAS UPTO US TO BE PRESENT OR NOT. IT WAS NICE TOBE INFORMED BY MR ELLAM THE TIME AND THE DATE WE NEEDED TO CHECK-OUT AND GO TO MAKKAH MUKARRAMAH. HE ALSO INFORMED US THAT THRE HOTEL IN MAKKAH WAS BRAND NEW AND ALL THE FACILITIES WERE UPTO DATE, BUT THE SIZE OF THE ROOMS IN MAKKAH HOTEL WAS NOT AS PER MEDINAH HOTEL, IT WAS SMALL IN SIZE, WE ALL TOOK NOTE OF THE DETAILS GIVEN. WHEN WE LEFT FOR MAKKAH FROM HOTEL WE WERE NOT JUSTR INFORMED BUT ALSO INSTRRUCTED IN WAYS OF AHRAM AND ALSO THE BINDING OF NIYAT OF AHRAM. WE WERE TOLD TO PUT OUR AHRAM, BUT TO DO NIYAT AT MIQAT.

    UPON ARRIVAL AT MAKKAH WERE PLEASE OF THE INFORMATION GIVEN BY MR ELLAM, THE HOTEL WAS AS STATED AND ALSO THE ROOMS WERE VERY NICE. THE FOOD WAS AGAIN EXCELLANT AS BUFFET. WE WERE PLEASED TO NOTE AND TO TOBE HAPPY THAT WE WERE ALL PROVIDED AS STATED EURO-ASAIN MEALS.. PIZZA – FISH FINGERS & CHIPS WITH PEAS, CARROTS, CULIIFOWER, – CHICKEN & CHIPS, PLUS VARIOUS CURRIES, THE CHAPPATIS WERE COOKED IN HOUSE. EVEY DAYS- BEVERY MEAL 2 ITMNES – 1 VEG or DALL – 2 LAMB or CHICKEN, CURRIES WHCICH WERE NOT HEAVY/HOT, WE WEREE ALL PLEASE TO EAT NORMAL AS WE DO AT HOME WITH HOME TASTE.

    HAJJ DAYS WERE VERY VERY EXCELLANT, BARKET PROVIDED US WITH SOFA-CUM-BED FOR ALL BARKET HAJJ GROUP, PLUS WE WERE PLEASE TO BE PROVIDED BUFFET MEAL SET-UP EVEN THUO IT WAS FOR 1 TIME ONLY, NO FAULT OF BARKET WE CAME TO KNOW, BUT THE ATHUROTIES HAD TAKEN 2 TENTS AWAY FROM BARKEYT/US FOR THERE OWN NEEDS, WHICH WE KNOW IT WAS NOT OF BARKET DOINGS. ALL THE PROGRAMS WENT VERY NICELY. EVERY ONE CANNOT BE HAPPY ALL THE TIME, YOU HAVE TO ADJUST AND SEEK GUIDENCE FROM THE ALMIGHTY. WE WERE VERY HAPPY AND ARE PLEASED TO RECOMMEND BARKET HAJJ GROUP AS A GOOD REPUTABLE COMPANY WITH WHOM YOU CAN TRAVEL WITH EASE AND COMFORT. WE RECOMMEND TO EVERY MUSLIM BROTHER AND SISTER.

    WASSALAM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *