11 July 2024

This year, 7,738 Thai Muslims joined millions of the faithful from around the world on the Hajj pilgrimage. Despite receiving a Hajj quota of 13,000 from Saudi Arabia, Thailand saw fewer pilgrims than anticipated, largely due to the rising costs.

Restored Diplomatic Relations Improve Pilgrimage Experience

Following the resumption of full diplomatic ties, both countries have worked to enhance cooperation and improve the pilgrimage experience for Thai Muslims. Anusorn Ongard, a Thai Hajj operator, told Thai PBS World that “What I saw most clearly after the relationship was restored is that Thai people enjoy more convenience in Hajj-related services, as the Saudi government is interested in and cares for Thai people.”

Shortfall in Thai Hajj Pilgrims

Despite the increased quota, only just over half of Thai pilgrims expected actually made the journey to Mecca this year and Deputy Minister of Interior, Chada Thaised, who was in Mecca, emphasised the need to reduce costs. “I must work on it while I am in this position. If I can’t do that, then I should leave this position. I have to bring the price of attending the Hajj down to about 200,000 baht.”

Anusorn Ongard, Owner of Asfa Hajj

Reasons for Rising Hajj Costs

According to Hajj agencies, the rise in prices is due to a number of factors. Anusorn explained, “It became more expensive after COVID. Of course, the demand is high, so the price must be increased. Whenever there is competition to buy, the entrepreneur is bound make a large profit by raising the price to maximize the benefits. This is normal.”

Another Hajj agency revealed it is actually the companies that handle Hajj in Saudi Arabia that increase the price every year. 

Taxes and length of stay also play important roles. “The first factor are the taxes, with Saudi Arabia having a tax rate of 15%. Another is the length of the trip. The main Hajj ceremony is not more than 10 days, but many choose to stay for 30 to 40 days, increasing the overall cost,” he added.

Ways to Reduce Hajj Costs

Anusorn suggested that reducing airline ticket prices could help lower overall costs. “The lower the Hajj price the better, because it makes Hajj services accessible to more people. The easiest way to reduce prices is to reduce the price of airline tickets. Normally, flight tickets are 28,000 to 35,000 baht to the Middle East, but during Hajj, it inflates to 60,000 to 70,000 baht.”

Another Hajj operator proposed shorter trips as a way to reduce costs. “If the price of a Hajj pilgrimage were fixed at 145,000 baht, we would still have another 50,000 baht leeway. We could try reducing the number of days of stay, from 40 or 30 days to 25 days. It is possible to get the price lower than 200,000 baht, depending on whether the pilgrims want to stay for a long time or not.”

Hajj is a mandatory pilgrimage for all Muslims once in their lifetime, if they are able to do so. That’s why many sectors are working together to make it possible for the general public to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.

By Kitipat Chuensukjit