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Hajj travel industry at risk of collapse after Saudi Arabia reforms pilgrimage entry

The UK’s hajj travel industry is on the brink of collapse after Saudi Arabia unveiled new plans for the pilgrimage entry system.

The hajj - which is a annual Islamic journey to Mecca in the country, the holiest city in the religion - could be upset for many after a Twitter account revealed that to gain entry, people must register their interested on a website before it randomly grants access to people seeking to travel.

The portal cuts out the middleman of UK-based travel agents, who organise travel for roughly 25,000 British Muslims annually. Companies with current bookings will be liable to repay customers by the Package Travel Regulations.

Professionals working the industry have labelled the move a “nightmare” and believe it poses a death knock to the £175 million market.

Abu Sayed Ansarey, a travel agent and hajj tour guide told Sky News: "This is our income and there are many agents who survive on this. We also contribute to the British economy.

Abu claims that he already has £280,000 worth of refunds needed to be issued while detailing his clients are worried about spending money internationally without assured guarantees, such as ATOL protection. In addition, they “want to go the way their predecessors went”.

He said: "I told them they can get their money back but they say it's not about money, they want to go to hajj with someone they know.

"They want to go the way their predecessors went, with hajj guides like myself."

Yasmin Qureshi MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj and Umrah says she informed the Saudi government their news plans did not match up with UK travel rules.

She told the same outlet: "I have written to the Ministry about the whole portal rollout.”

"If something goes wrong, what is the ultimate comeback for the pilgrim? On the old system, you had ATOL protected packages, so if anything went wrong we had compensation."

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