Nearly half the hotels in Makkah have been denied Civil Defense permits to house pilgrims due to non-compliance with health and safety regulations — measures that are said to result in an expected SR500 million loss in business during the upcoming Haj.
The Civil Defense has refused permits to buildings, which have elevators built inside their stairwells and which lack emergency exits, said Khalil Abdul Rahman Bahadur, vice president of the Tourism and Hotel Committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Civil Defense safety regulations stipulate that hotels have emergency exits, electricity generators, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and fire alarms.
However, hotel owners argue that the only way to meet all of the regulations is by demolishing their hotels and rebuilding them, something that they say is impossible as Haj is around the corner. Instead, hoteliers have asked the authorities to grant them five years to meet the requirements.
"There may be huge losses faced by the hotel business if the Civil Defense continues to refuse permits to half of the hotels in Makkah," said Bahadur. "The refusals have caused a commotion ... and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry has appealed to Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal to interfere as Haj is close," he said.
Bahadur said that hotels located in the cramped streets near the Grand Mosque are unable to have two staircases due to a lack of space. "I also find it strange that recent directives authorize hotels with two staircases to fully operate, while hotels with one staircase are entitled to only operate to 70 percent of their capacity," said Bahadur.
He noted that foreign pilgrim delegations are waiting for the authorities to resolve the matter to sign contracts with hotels.
"There is a possibility that a number of pilgrim delegations are going to be forced to house their pilgrims in locations that are far away from the Haram," he said, adding that the lack of permits is going to complicate housing situation in the area and as a result hotel owners are expected to face serious financial losses.
Revenue from housing services during Haj is estimated to be worth about SR1.5 billion. More than 1.5 million Muslims are expected to arrive in Makkah from around the Islamic world to perform the annual pilgrimage. Haj operators estimate the average rate in hotels in the central area of the city at SR7,000 per person.
Foreign Haj missions as well as tourism companies involved in the Haj have rented more than 7,000 buildings in Makkah well before the pilgrimage, which starts on Dec. 18.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Kasım 2007, 14:48