Ways of improving the global haj and umrah industry will be explored at a haj forum involving a myriad of stakeholders in the sector. The initiative is spearheaded by Hajj People, an enterprise company with a commercial engine that has a social purpose. The World Haj and Umrah convention will be making its way to Cape Town on the 8th February 2014. Chairperson, Mohsin Tutla, said the organisation’s core purpose is to develop the industry in order to enhance the pilgrim’s experience.
Speaking to VOC News from the UK, Tutla said while South Africa has its internal glitches within the haj and umrah industry, it serves as an example for many other Western countries with large populations of Muslims.
He said: “We can learn a lot from South Africa in the way in which they have built the industry, with a certain ethos which we hope to continue developing.”
The convention will be take place at the Westin Hotel in Cape Town and representatives from the South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) and travel operator’s fraternity have been invited to participate. Other guests consist of stakeholders from within the haj and umrah industry such as private travel operators, as well as Saudi supply companies looking to learn how they can improve their services. The convention will also consist of an exhibition along with a meet and greet, where guests can interact with various roleplayers.
Tutla said fraud in the haj and umrah industry was not uncommon, even to the international community.
“In the UK, we have about six police officers who form part of the Haj Fraud Unit. Their primary focus is to investigate fraud and theft within the haj and umrah fraternity,” Tutla explained.
These issues can be tackled by implementing a self-governing system, which according to Tutla, will mean that travel operators will be forced to be responsible when arranging the haj and umrah of their clients. Should they fail in their duties and cost the pilgrims any losses, they will then put not only their reputation but the reputation of their fellow travel operators at stake, making the damages far reaching and at times irreversible.
With Hajj People’s visit to Cape Town, they are also hoping to establish a relationship with and provide a platform where the “regulator and the regulated” can be educated and implement programs aimed at only positively improving the growing industry.
“The international community can learn from the way South Africa handles its haj and umrah. South Africa is a host to a large Muslim population however, it doesn’t’ have the same privileges of taking a certain amount of Muslims on haj due to its agreements. We could perhaps find collaborative opportunities to find a way to provide certain facilities within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So Muslims from South Africa, the United Kingdom and America for example, can come together and say this is what we have, these are our resources, let’s look at what the Saudi Kingdom can offer the international community which ultimately will enhance the experience as a whole,” Tutla added. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)