UAE: Spike in Umrah bookings expected, with Saudi set to reopen borders

James Jose /Dubai Filed on July 31, 2021

Saudi Arabia has announced that fully vaccinated travellers can enter the Kingdom without the need to quarantine.

Travel agents and licensed Umrah companies in the UAE are expecting bookings in the coming days as Saudi Arabia is set to reopen its borders to international tourists tomorrow, August 1.

Following a 17-month closure due to the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has announced that fully vaccinated travellers can enter the Kingdom without the need to quarantine.

The Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) issued an advisory which said that travellers would need to provide evidence of a full course of one the four vaccines currently recognised: two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the vaccine produced by Johnson and Johnson. Visitors who completed two doses of the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines will also be allowed into the Kingdom, provided they have received an additional dose of one of the approved vaccines.

“We haven’t got any bookings yet but we are hoping there will be queries over the coming days. If you have taken the Sinopharm vaccine and if you have taken the booster shot which is approved by Saudi Arabia, then you are allowed to enter the Kingdom,” said Raja Mir Wasim, manager of MICE and holidays at Galadari International Travel Services (ITS).

Apart from regular visitors or tourists who travel on business or leisure, travel firms are also expecting bookings for Umrah packages, as Saudi Arabia is set to allow the entry of international pilgrims from August 10.

Bharat Aidasani, the managing partner of Pluto Travels, said that they plan to resume Umrah packages, now that Saudi Arabia has reopened its borders.

ITS also facilitates those who are planning to perform Umrah, an Islamic pilgrimage that can be performed at any time of the year. “We do it through a supplier, who is authorised to do Umrah services. You have to apply for an Umrah visa and if you comply with their entry rules, which is being fully vaccinated, then you will be able to travel,” said Wasim.

Saudi Arabia has opened a web portal, where visitors can register their vaccination status. The site is available in Arabic and English.

Travellers arriving in the country are also required to provide a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before departure and an approved paper vaccination certificate, certified by the official health authorities in the issuing country.

“Generally, we have had a huge demand for Saudi over the years and Saudi is a very strong market for the UAE. Pre-covid, we used to get a lot of bookings, especially from the UAE,” said Aidasani.

“We haven’t got many enquiries yet since it was only announced on Friday. We are expecting queries from tomorrow (Sunday),” he added.

James Jose

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