26 March 2009
Birmingham MP, Roger Godsiff, has severely criticized the activities of rogue travel operators who either fraudulently take money from clients and disappear, or promise a five-star package pilgrimage that turns out to be nothing of the kind.
Mr Godsiff, who secured a Commons debate to highlight this matter which affects a great many of his own constituents commented; “Every year, more than 150,000 British Muslim pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia as part of the 1.7 million Muslims who go there from all over the world. The Hajj pilgrimage is greatly looked forward to in the Muslim world and should be a time of enjoyment and self-fulfilment. However, for some British Muslims, the experience turns into an expensive disaster due to the activities of rogue travel operators”.
He praised the work that the Foreign Office has undertaken in setting up a special unit to deal with British pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj festival which is greatly appreciated by the Muslim community but went on to say: “The problem, however, is that many people who go on the Hajj pilgrimage feel more comfortable dealing with travel agencies run by members of their own community, whom they believe, as Muslims, will understand more clearly what the pilgrimage is about and what is required.
Mr Godsiff believes however that what is really needed is better regulation. He said: “The Muslim community in this country would strongly welcome a Government commitment to considering what further regulation and legislation could be enacted to address the problem of unscrupulous travel agents”
The Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK has made clear its belief that all travel agents should be members of ABTA – The Association of British Travel Agents – and should be required to provide a bond to that organisation to be used as compensation for travellers who are given inferior accommodation or arrangements to those promised when the booking was made..
For further information contact: 07732 469082
Researcher to Roger Godsiff MP
Tel 0207 219 5191
Fax 0207 219 2221