From smart systems to e-tracking, Haj goes high-tech this year

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The Haj and Umrah Ministry's electronic tracking system allows for increased transparency and greater monitorial capability in order to protect the pilgrims’ rights.

MAKKAH — Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Haj and Umrah is rolling out a bundle of smart systems to facilitate the travel of pilgrims from around the world and ensure that the rituals are performed with ease.

This includes an integrated electronic tracking system for the external pilgrims, which applies from the initiation of contracts on housing, transportation, and catering until the pilgrims depart from the Kingdom.

According to the ministry, the system “allows for transparency and monitorial capability to follow up the implementation and the extent of adherence of each party”. The system functions under the supervision of the ministry.

The e-track system for the domestic pilgrims brings under its umbrella the various service programs offered by the companies and agencies providing services to the domestic pilgrims.

The ministry says the system gives the applicants the choice of suitable Haj packages. It also allows them to enter into e-contracts on various services with the companies and agencies.

A provision has been made for an electronic system for payments of contracts in order to protect the pilgrims’ rights. The e-portal also enables the process of transferring the requests for Haj permits to the systems of the ministry of interior.

The ministry is supervising these services directly, particularly those dealing with large groups, as it is critical for organizing, scheduling and managing the crowd.

On May 29, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman launched the Guests of God" service program, as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The program consists of over 130 initiatives, prepared by more than 30 government agencies. It will have three strategic objectives – facilitate the hosting of more pilgrims and their access to the Two Holy Mosques; provide quality services for Haj and Umrah pilgrims, and enrich their religious and cultural experiences.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Haj and Umrah announced plans to start issuing electronic visas for pilgrims, allowing them to apply online and receive their visas within minutes.

Speaking to MBC in March this year, the general supervisor of the electronic platform for Haj and Umrah, Abdulrahman Shams, revealed that the portal would give non-Saudis online access to choose different service packages, and apply for their visas.

“Currently, pilgrims who are coming from outside the Kingdom are tied to Hajj and Umrah service-providing companies and agents in their countries. The electronic visas will now be issued to these entities who will be licensed to facilitate Hajj and Umrah in these countries,” Shams said.

Besides the annual Haj seasons, Saudi Arabia receives a large number of Umrah pilgrims. According to the ministry, the number of Umrah visas issued reached 7,650,736 with the number of pilgrims arriving in the Kingdom until the end of last week being 7,393,657. — Al-Arabiya English


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