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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Travel agency explains botched pilgrimage debacle, refunds customers

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By Alagie Manneh

The Hulool Travel Agency, the entity at the heart of an alleged illegal selling of hajj packages leading to the stranding of about a hundred would- be pilgrims, has started refunding people who booked through them.

A spokesperson of the agency Haja Jabbi told The Standard on Monday that out of the 100 pilgrims who registered with the agency, more than 90 have been refunded. She pleaded with the remainder of the affected group to be patient and understanding.

Confronted on how the whole debacle unfolded, Ms Jabbi said their intention was to assist Gambians experience the hajj by introducing them to attractive and reasonable packages compared to the other travel agencies in the country.

“But our visas got delayed. We were told that there were visas but then receiving them became a problem. The conditions for obtaining Saudi visa this year was like any other visas as one must have both hotel and air ticket bookings. At our end we bought all the tickets and paid for everything. The total number was 100 and when we realised that the visas may not be available on time we tried there and then to refund all payments. We are all saddened by the development. We wanted to help people but Allah decreed otherwise. People are sad because they had said their goodbyes and wanted to go for the hajj. Thank Allah, we have refunded almost all the monies. I think only about 12 people remained as at this moment. We are now trying to get in touch with Qatar airways for them to remove the penalty and refund our money so that we can refund the remaining ones, ” she said. Reacting to claims that the company is not registered, Ms Jabbi stated: “It’s true that we have not been licensed by government but we went to the National Hajj Commission and expressed our desire to be included in this year’s hajj. We wanted Gambians to witness the services and benefits of the agency. We went to seek for a license and a quota but we couldn’t have any. It was then that the company suggested we go ahead and we tried to secure our own visas from Saudi outside the Gambian quota. We did that process and secured the visas but unfortunately couldn’t get them on time,” she stated.  

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