Travel agents and Muslims from the western countries have been left reeling as the Saudi government announced that each country has been assigned an allotment of places for those looking to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage.
The Hajj pilgrimage is a foundational pillar of Islam that takes place over five to six days during the month of Dhul Hijjah in the Islamic calendar. It honours rituals of the Prophet Abraham and the Prophet Mohammed that exist in Islamic theology.
The countries and continents that have been limited include Australia, New Zealand, the UK, North America and Europe.
This new lottery system limits the number of places to 1 million, whereas Muslims from western countries could previously book and claim a place through travel agencies and Hajj tours.
Australia has been allotted just over 2000 spots for Hajj.
The ABC reported that the Saudi government’s decision left a travel agent from Melbourne blindsided.
“It’s completely devastated the whole market, not just from the travel agents’ point of view, but for the pilgrims,” the travel agent said.
“Not everybody is familiar with the internet. There are senior citizens who are unfamiliar with the processes online, who don’t even have credit cards.