The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), a UK-based association of travel agents, has issued a warning regarding the practices of unlicensed travel companies to UK travellers journying to Saudi Arabia for Hajj.
Around 25,000 pilgrims will be heading for Saudi Arabia from the UK for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place between October 24 and 29, 2012. The unregistered travel companies are known to book sub-standard accommodation, or worse, fraudulent bookings with cheap hotels, leading to unsuspecting travellers having to spend more money on arrival.
Under UK law, only a travel company with a valid ATOL license may book accommodation and flights for UK travellers. For the travel companies who are not members of ABTA, ABTA’s Code of Conduct is not applicable. The Code of Conduct includes terms of service, fair terms of trading and transaction, as well as precise booking information.
The City of London Police have also issued an advisory booklet for Hajj pilgrims, offering guidelines and encouraging them to seek police help in case of fraudulent transactions.
Steve Abrahamson, the risk, claims and membership administration manager at ABTA, said, ‘Every year the police and Trading Standards offices have to deal with cases of Hajj pilgrims who have lost substantial amounts of money or arrived in Saudi Arabia to find that their accommodation and other travel arrangements are of a much lower standard than they had paid for. For many Hajj is a once in a lifetime trip and fraudsters don’t just steal pilgrims’ money but the opportunity to fulfil a religious duty.’