Middle East

Saudi king approves support for Islamic pilgrimage operators after COVID-19: SPA

CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman approved a range of initiatives aimed at assisting firms and individuals operating in support of Islamic pilgrimages, Saudi state news agency SPA said late on Monday.

The initiatives are aimed at mitigating the financial and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the sector that provides support for the haj and umrah pilgrimages, SPA said. 

They include exempting accommodation facilities from the annual fees for municipal commercial activities’ licenses in the cities of Mecca and Medina, where the Islamic pilgrimages take place.

Facilities working in the sector will also be exempted from working expatriates’ fees for six months, and can renew the Ministry of Tourism’s licenses for accommodation facilities free of charge in the two cities for a year, which can be extended. 

For expatriates working in activities related to haj and umrah, the collection of residency renewal fees will be postponed for six months, provided that the amounts are paid in installments over a year, SPA said.

Bus licenses operating in facilities transporting pilgrims will remain valid without charge for a year, and the collection of customs duties for new buses will be postponed for the upcoming haj season for three months. They will be paid in installments over a period of four months from the due date.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba, writing by Nayera Abdallah, editing by Richard Pullin

FILE PHOTO: A general view picture shows the Kaaba as Muslim pilgrims keep social distance while performing their final Tawaf, marking the end of Haj pilgrimage amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 2, 2020. Sultan Al-Masoudi/Handout via REUTERS.

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