JAKARTA – A company has launched Indonesia’s first do-it-yourself digital umrah platform at the same time an e-commerce giant opens its marketplace to pilgrimage packages.
PT Central Global Network has launched DIY umrah platform umra.id and Tokopedia has started selling umrah packages from twenty travel agencies.
Central Global Network has been selling umrah packages offline for the last seven years and developed its platform in response to its growing customer base of educated, independent, and digitally-savvy millennial pilgrims, Ahmad Husaini, its CEO told Salaam Gateway.
The company aims to attract at least 100,000 pilgrims next year, said Ahmad.
“On our platform, travellers can choose flight schedules and routes, hotels, travel insurance and even do the visa application by themselves,” said Ahmad.
Indonesia is not on Saudi Arabia’s list of 49 eligible countries that can apply for electronic tourist visas online, and that also cover umrah for Muslim travellers.
Regardless, the Saudi government’s liberalisation of the umrah travel sector was another factor for the development of umra.id, according to Ahmad.
Bank Syariah Mandiri is an investor in umra.id and also provides the payment facility for the platform.
Central Global Network expects 20% of the bank’s 973,000 mobile banking users to become active users of umra.id, said Ahmad.
The new DIY umrah platform will also partner with Saudi travel agency Dar Al Iman that currently manages 14,000 hotel rooms in Makkah and Madinah. Umra.id will earn a fee from Dar Al Iman for each transaction.
Central Global Network is optimistic it can compete with other digital umrah platforms, including Tokopedia’s marketplace.
The e-commerce giant handled 73 trillion rupiah ($5.18 billion) in transactions last year and in early November launched its Islamic marketplace Tokopedia Salam on which the umrah packages are sold.
Addressing the e-commerce giant’s dominance, Ahmad said there are many repeat umrah travellers among the 1 million pilgrims from Indonesia every year that will constantly be on the lookout for new and different offers.
"They usually move from one travel agent to other travel agents,” said Ahmad.
The DIY umrah platform provides all information pilgrims would need, he added.
“In the current era, travel guides aren’t the most important thing anymore. On our platform we offer all the information about shopping centres, maps, prayer guides and basically we remove the function of the tour guide,” he said.
Umra.id is not the first in the world to offer DIY Umrah. In October, UK-based Serendipity Travel’s Rihaala.com became the first Muslim-friendly online travel agency to offer DIY Umrah following Saudi Arabia’s move to start offering tourist visas in September.
The liberalisation of umrah started in December 2018 when the Saudi government signed an agreement with global OTA Agoda to develop digital facilities for the pilgrimage travel sector.
Saudi Arabia is aiming for 30 million umrah pilgrims by 2030. 7.6 million visas were issued in the 2018-19 season over the hijri year 1440.
DIY Umrah may be on the rise but there's still room for more traditional organised umrah packages.
Garri Juanda, Head of Tokopedia Salam, the company’s Islamic marketplace, said the e-commerce unicorn is currently partnering with 20 licensed umrah travel agencies to offer more than 100 umrah packages online on its Tokopedia Umrah.
It is also partnering with Bank Muamalat, Bank Syariah Mandiri and BRI Syariah to facilitate payments.
Tokopedia is working with the Directorate General of Hajj and Umrah Management to link its system to the government’s online umrah application system to ensure all travel agencies it works with are licensed with the ministry of religious affairs.
The Directorate monitors the organisation of hajj and umrah primarily to protect consumers against fraud and scams.
Garri said data input is currently still done manually.
"Once it is linked, it will be easier for us to screen our candidate partners for their legal, business, and financial track records so we can avoid any untoward behaviour from umrah travel agents," he said.
Garri said the decision to partner with umrah travel agencies came after input from Tokopedia customers.
He also cites Saudi Arabia’s opening up of its travel sector as a pull factor.
Syam Resfiadi, chairperson of industry body Hajj and Umrah Inbound Organiser Association (ASPHURINDO) and owner of Patuna Travel said online travel agents (OTAs) are cashing in on the opportunities offered by digital travel and that, ready or not, bricks-and-mortar umrah travel agencies will move in the same direction.
However, he believes that "offline" umrah travel agencies will still have their own customers.
"We in the association see, regardless the number of new OTA players, as long as there are licensed hajj and umrah travel agencies as their partners, we will stay exist,” Syam told Salaam Gateway.
“The OTA is just a marketplace, they don’t have the ability to manage [pilgrims] so our business in sha Allah will be safe," he said.
(Reporting by Yosi Winosa; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim firstname.lastname@example.org)
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