JAKARTA - Indonesia’s ministry of religious affairs is developing an online umrah marketplace to provide would-be pilgrims with a safer, more secure booking process.
The ministry’s secretary-general Nur Syam told Salaam Gateway the authority has been working with 14 umrah travel agencies (PPIU) to develop and test the system.
"Umrah pilgrims can freely choose the desired PPIU, as well as umrah package," said Nur Syam, who said the platform will launch around next year’s haj season.
The ministry in 2017 said it wanted to improve the monitoring system for the umrah sector, following a high-profile scandal involving a travel agency that defrauded around 60,000 pilgrims of at least 848.7 billion Indonesian rupiah ($63.6 million).
Umrah travel agents generally welcome the initiative but warned the industry should be educated first before the system is implemented.
Syam Resfiadi, owner of Patuna Travel, said he will follow any policy issued by the government so long as it improves oversight and supervision of umrah agencies.
The initiative, said Syam, is an upgrade of the existing Sipatuh application, or the integrated supervision information system for umrah and haj, launched last year.
“First, the government should conduct awareness and education programmes for travel agencies because not all 1,016 PPIUs are familiar or ready with online systems,” Syam told Salaam Gateway. His agency arranged trips for around 4,000 pilgrims during the last umrah season.
“Many are still doing business in the traditional, conventional way, which is why so many umrah travel agencies still do not comply with the existing Sipatuh application,” he added.
“Secondly, there must be strong law enforcement, and strong penalties for any umrah travel agents that don’t follow the rules.”
Syam further suggested the need to highlight the accreditations or grades, of each of the licensed 1,016 PPIUs as not all have the same level of internet access, for example.
(Reporting by Yosi Winosa; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim email@example.com)
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