DUBAI (Al Arabiya)
Demand is expected to be higher this Hajj pilgrimage season, raising Mecca's hotel rooms off-season prices for almost 10 times this November, the UAE-based The National reports.
Last year Mecca received lesser numbers of pilgrims as fears of the swine flu overwhelmed the world, but this year's soaring hotel prices suggest hoteliers are expecting visitors in record droves.
Hotels like Moevenpick and Residence Hajar Tower Makkah are charging approximately between $12,000 and $17,332 for 13 nights during the Haj season, translating into $923 to $1333 per night.
In September, a non-happening month, a hotel room can cost as little as $1715 for 13 nights or $131 per night.
"Due to the expected increased costs this year, Haj is not affordable for the majority of people," said Mohammed Sohail at Al Hamar Hajj Services based in Dubai.
"The Hajj quota is limited and the cost of Hajj is increasing every year," Sohail added.
Quotas are still limited with authorities still cautious on allowing too many pilgrims into the country as they work on longer-term plans to improve tourism infrastructure in Mecca.
Some of the improvements to infrastructure are already in place. This Haj season will witness the new $1.8 billion metro, the first in the holy city, operating a limited service during Haj.
The system is expected to ease transport problems between the holy sites, which in the past over crowdedness have led to deaths by stampedes.
"Everybody is looking for a better operational environment this year," said Chiheb ben Mahmoud, the senior vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels in the MENA region.
"There's more visibility," he said, referring to the travel and visa bans that were imposed last year because of the H1N1 virus. "It's not like the uncertainty of last year."
This year has showed more earlier booking been made in comparison to last year's bookings, which were mainly last-minute bookings due to the H1N1 virus frenzy.
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