I have been researching the UK Hajj industry since 2011 when I first started interviewing British Muslim organisers licensed by the authorities in Saudi Arabia.
I also make use of information publicly available online. In this regard Hajj organiser websites are useful because they include information about the changing configuration and price of Hajj packages.
In 2013-14 and then again in 2017-18 I visited each UK licensed Hajj organiser website (based mainly on the admittedly out-of-date lists made available by the UK Saudi Embassy).
For each website I sought to record the price of one or more Hajj packages advertised online if available.
In 2014, 51 of 79 organisers (representing a sample of about 65%) presented a price for one or more Hajj 2013 or Hajj 2014 packages. In 2017-18 the figure was 50 of 92 licensed Hajj organisers (representing a sample of about 54%).
Four (different) companies which were unusual in quoting a price for packages not including flights were excluded from the samples. Thus the samples were 47 (2013-14) and 46 (2017-18) organisers respectively which is a significant enough proportion to report on my findings.
Highest Package Prices:
In terms of the highest package prices across 2013-14, 18 (49%) had a highest price of £4000 or under, while 13 (35%) had a highest price £4-5000. 11 licensed Hajj organisers (23 per cent) advertised a highest package price in excess of £5000, while five (10 per cent) advertised a highest package price in excess of £6000. In 2017-18 the number of licensed Hajj organisers advertising a highest package price in excess of £5000 had more than trebled to 34 (71 per cent), while those advertising a highest price of £6000+ had nearly trebled to 14 (30 per cent).
Interestingly, the number of licensed Hajj organisers advertising all of their packages in excess of £5000 remained consistent between 2013-14 and 2017-18 at just two (4 per cent). Both companies concerned are based in the north London area.
“The mean average highest package price in 2013-14 was £4472, while in 2017-18 it is £5934. This represents a 25 per cent rise”.
What do Higher Package Prices Deliver?
Of course, what British Hujjaj (pilgrims) can expect for £5000 is very rapidly being eroded year on year.
While one might expect a direct flight to Jeddah or Madinah on an airline such as British Airways or Saudia, it is possible to pay £5195 in 2017-18 and still travel with Egypt Air which includes a stopover in Cairo. Travelling direct with British Airways costs up to £8250.
Hujjaj will also expect ‘non-shifting’ accommodation. ‘Non-shifting’ means that hotels in Makkah and Madinah are booked for the duration of the pilgrimage, including the peak days of Hajj. Desirable are double occupancy rooms in five-star or better hotels that are close to the Holy Mosques. However, one organiser’s website went so far as to explicitly distinguish between “5* international” and “5* Saudi” standards, with the more general use of terms such as ‘deluxe’ and ‘super-deluxe’ not always readily understood by or helpful to pilgrims/customers.
Finally, Hujjaj paying in excess of £5000 can also expect extras such as VIP tents when they travel out into the desert in Mina. Sometimes these are included in the package price although in 2017-18 there is one example of A/C (air-conditioned) tents being charged as an extra (£150) even at this price point, as is a Hajj Visa at £425 in another case.
Lowest Package Prices:
In terms of the lowest package prices across 2013-14 just 5 licensed Hajj organisers (11 per cent) advertised a lowest package price (including flights) in the £2000-2999 range. However, 35 (74 per cent) advertised a lowest package price in the range of £3000-3999. This was a much higher number too than those offering a lowest package price of £4000-4999 (6 or 13 per cent) or £5000-5999 (2 or 4 per cent).
In contrast, by 2017-18 there were no licensed hajj organisers advertising a Hajj package price below £2000-2999, while those advertising a lowest price of £3000-3999 had shrunk from 35 to 4 (or 74 per cent to 9 per cent). Many more organisers were now offering packages at £4000-4999 (26 or 57 per cent) and to a lesser extent £5000-5999 (15 or 33 per cent).
Thus, what British Hujjaj can expect to pay for an economy package has risen quite noticeably in the space of just a few years.
“The mean average lowest price was £3727 in 2013-14 but £4835 in 2017-18. This represents a 23 per cent rise”.