The beginning of the Umrah season on June 29 this year coincided with the summer holidays, triggering a large rush of people including Saudis to do the pilgrimage.
An official from Al-Rushd, a leading Hajj and Umrah travel operator in the city, said the Umrah season is to continue until two weeks after Ramadan.
He predicted that the current fee of SR100 per pilgrim will increase by 50 percent as Ramadan approaches and will be hiked even further during the latter part of the holy month. â€œBudget conscious families are currently taking advantage of this offer,â€ he said.
A return fare from Riyadh to Makkah by luxury coach including accommodation in the holy city will cost SR100 per pilgrim and the charges remain the same even if the pilgrim opts to visit the Prophetâ€™s (s) Mosque in Madinah en route to Makkah.
For an additional payment of SR30 per pilgrim, accommodation can be upgraded to four-star hotels in the holy city.
The itinerary for the weekend package to Makkah and Madinah starts at 4 p.m. from Riyadh on Wednesday and finishes on Friday midnight. Each family is given a large room while the bachelors are accommodated on a sharing basis with three pilgrims in one room. Children under 12 pay half the fare.
A five-day package to Makkah and Madinah including travel and accommodation will cost SR150 per pilgrim. The offer includes a two-day stay in a three-star hotel in Madinah and another two days in similar accommodation in Makkah.
The journey begins on Monday and ends on Friday. The pilgrims will leave the holy city of Makkah after Friday prayers so that they reach Riyadh around midnight. Pilgrims are given an option to stay in a five-star hotel for an additional premium.
There are more than 100 Umrah travel operators spread out across the capital, but most are concentrated in the city center of Batha.
During the journey, coaches stop for Maghreb, Isha and dinner and at the meeqat point in Taif to allow pilgrims to don ihrams. Pilgrims are given half an hour to put their ihrams on to ensure that they reach Makkah in time for Fajr.
A leading hotelier in Makkah told Arab News that the majority of the pilgrims are from all parts of the Kingdom and others have come from countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
â€œThis year, there are less people from Arab countries such as Egypt and Morocco, possibly due to unrest in the region,â€ he noted. The occupancy rate in Makkah hotels has been recorded at 88 percent during weekdays and 100 percent during the weekends, he added.
The local hotels in cooperation with local tour operators have arranged city tours to historical sites for the benefit of those pilgrims who come to Madinah to visit the Prophetâ€™s Mosque.
The places of interest include Quba Mosque, the first mosque built by the Holy Prophet (s) in Madinah; the Qiblatain Mosque where the Qibla was shifted from Baitul Muqaddas (Al-Aqsa Mosque) to the Holy Kaaba; and the graveyard on the foothills of Mount Uhud where soldiers who died in battle during the prophetic period were buried.