Photo: A Saudi policeman (R) stands watch as Muslims touch and pray at the door of the Kaaba and touch and kiss the al-Hajr al-Aswad "Black Stone" during their Umrah Mawlid al-Nabawi "Birthday of Prophet Mohammad" in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia January 18, 2016. Picture taken January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
DUBAI - Dubai-based umrah and haj wholesaler Umrah Holidays is partnering with WebBeds, the business-to-business travel distributor owned by Australia-listed company WebJet, to sell umrah packages online, the two announced at a media event in Dubai on Monday.
“Umrah and haj are very new to the online market and at the same time they coincide with the developments taking place on the ground in Saudi Arabia,” said Umrah Holidays CEO Aly Sidky, referring to recent changes set in place by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to digitise visa and booking procedures for the pilgrimages.
The company will put its umrah packages on the WebBeds system for travel businesses and professionals to buy for their end consumers.
“We’ll have packages and we will have individual hotels that you can book,” said Sidky.
WebBeds will officially start selling to businesses for the umrah season directly following this year’s haj, said Sidky.
“We are ‘soft running’ the system. I think the first packages on the system went live yesterday. But officially, we’ll start from mid-September,” he added.
Egypt will be the first source market but the partners plan to roll out the offering worldwide.
“We’re starting in Egypt and move out of Egypt early next year,” said WebJet managing director John Guscic.
Sidky explained that Umrah Holidays operates partially from Egypt, which he said is a “very high potential market for umrah”. Egypt is a very important market. In the last year 1.4 million umrah travellers went from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, said Sidky.
The umrah packages will cater to a range of budgets, from five-star to lower cost categories, said Sidky.
“We will be like a hypermarket. We’ll try to have everybody who’s workable online.”
WebBeds stocks an inventory of 300,000 hotels globally, a few hundred of which are in Saudi Arabia, according to Guscic.
The company grew from $10,000 in hotel room sales in February 2013 to $1.5 billion today. Its parent company WebJet owns both business-to-business and business-to-consumer travel companies. It listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in March 2000.
Umrah Holidays was established in Dubai only a year ago.
(Reporting by Emmy Abdul Alim; Editing by Shane McGinley firstname.lastname@example.org)
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