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Sunday, 25 February 2018

New fees on umrah dominate the airwaves

Fees imposed by the Tourism Ministry on umrah travel for this season took over the debate on the airwaves last night. Our read is that the move is fundamentally a bid to control demand for FX heading during the pre-Ramadan season, when demand for foreign exchange rises as importers, manufacturers and retailers stock up on the staples of the holy month.

Tourism Minister Rania Al Mashat spoke to Hona Al Asema’s Lamees Al Hadidi to defend the decision to set a cap of 500k visas for Egyptians and impose a fee of SAR 2-3k on travellers who have recently performed the journey, saying that it means to control the demand for the SAR that the government is committed to providing. She added that the surcharge will be reviewed next year (watch, runtime 7:48).

The head of the Supreme Committee for Hajj and Umrah, Ashraf Shiha, also backed the decision, claiming that it should not affect demand since those who do the pilgrimage frequently represent only about 8-10% of total demand (watch, runtime 6:39). Shiha also told Al Hayah Al Youm’s Tamer Amin that the quota and fees will be subject to increase or decrease next year, depending on the country’s economic conditions, explaining that it burdens the state to cater to the FX demand during umrah season (watch, runtime 3:52).

Tourism industry players are losing their minds, calling in to say that restrictions on repeat pilgrims would be bad for the already-struggling sector. MPs Elham Menshawy and Mohamed Naggar also said they oppose the surcharge.

On Kol Youm, Amr Adib expressed his full support for the decision. He spoke to Endowments Minister Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, who said that it’s preferable if people help the poor or contribute to infrastructure projects (that last bit is a new one on us) rather than go on umrah (watch, runtime 4:45). Adib also clarified to his audience that the fees will not be funneled to the Tahya Misr fund but will go to a CBE account created especially for them (watch, runtime 5:41).

Civilian in Sinai struggling to access subsidized food? On Masaa DMC, Eman El Hossary spoke to Food Industries Holding Company head Alaa Fahmy, who reassured her that citizens in North Sinai have access to sufficient food amid the military’s anti-terror campaign, confirming that government outlets are well-supplied (watch, runtime 4:21). The head of the North Sinai’s Doctor’s Syndicate called Lamees to say that Supply Ministry outlets were not in fact widely present in the area. He claimed that people have been queuing up to receive whatever limited commodities they could from the Armed Forces (watch, runtime 13:45).

Lamees also talked to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s campaign spokesperson, Mohammed Abu Shuka, who said that Sisi’s program would be announced soon (watch, runtime 47:00) and phoned presidential candidate Moussa Moustafa Moussa to discuss his bid (watch, runtime 10:00). The two also spoke to El Hossary on Masaa DMC (watch here, runtime 7:52) and (here, runtime 3:54).

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