Following the recent news, reported on this site last month, that the government of Saudi Arabia planned to increase visa fees for all visitors there are reports today that the cost of the trip to Meccas is now 500% more expensive that it was before the rises. The six fold increase in visa fees has led an a staggering increase in a single entry visa from $93 to $533. The hikes that came into effect on 2nd October, coinciding with the beginning of the new Islamic year and have been met with outrage from many Muslim countries and those with a large Muslim population. Moroccan travel agents have announced that they boycott booking the trip for their customers until the new fees are withdrawn. Travel agents across Morocco and Egypt have boycotted Hajj and Umrah exhibitions in a hope to persuade the Saudi government to reduce the costs. Meanwhile Turkey, Egypt and Nigeria have expressed their concern at the massive increases in costs. The Travel Agents Associations of Pakistan have also appealed to their prime minister to lobby Saudi Arabia on the issue. South Africans have also started a petition stating that the fees are inhumane, and the newly formed anti visa committee have branded the visa increases ‘daylight robbery’. Independent Hajj Reporters, a civil society based in Nigeria have also strongly criticised the visa hikes and have called on the Saudi Arabia government to reverse the decision. Saudi Arabia announced at the same time that other visas prices would also be increased considerably and this to has been met with concern from across the globe with The Times of India reporting that the ‘crazy’ hike in visa feed would impact business ties between the two countries. It is too early to tell whether the increased costs will in fact impact either tourism or business.
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