Muslim travel industry ready to start business from zero – and they can’t wait!

Umrah travel may only kick into high gear from early next year, but leisure travelers can start packing for their favourite destinations, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.

Muslim-owned travel operators breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday night when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the Government would open up the skies for international travel from October 1.

But while operators will start taking booking for various international destinations, people wanting to go for Umrah will have to wait for Saudi authorities to announce when its borders would open.

In an interview with Al Qalam, Ismail Olla, Secretary General of South African Muslim Travelers Association (SAMTOA) said Umrha travel will not be allowed anytime soon. The Saudis will make an announcement on Umrah travel in the first week of December, he said.

Olla said the Saudis will however soon allow the resumption of Umrah – but strictly for its citizens.

“We welcome the announcement by the Saudi Authorities who are currently devising plans to lift the suspension of Umrah. The first step in the initial phase of the plan is the resumption of Umrah for local Saudi pilgrims which will begin soon.

“A date set for lifting the suspension of all travel restrictions will be announced during the first week of December 2020, this will be based on the COVID-19 situation.

“We pray for a swift and speedy opening of the Haramain for the Ummah from around the world.

He said it was too early to take Umrah bookings at this stage but bookings for other destinations are gradually being opened.

“Every day, we are receiving calls from eager people wanting to travel places such as Dubai and Turkey”, he added.

Olla said bookings were dependent on international airlines to provide fresh schedules before bookings can be finalized.

International airlines flying out of Durban’s King Shaka Airport include Turkish Airlines, Air Mauritius, Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways.

Olla told Al Qalam that the shutdown of its business for over six months has been devastating for the industry, and many of its members will have to start from ground zero.

One enterprising Durban travel agency owner turned his premises into a food court where home industries could sell their food products ranging from cakes, savories freshly cooked traditional foods and a variety of snacks. Business is thriving.

And oh, there’s a nice ring to the phrase: “Have food, will travel”

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