Bangladesh is witnessing its lowest turnout for Hajj registrations, despite government attempts to lower package prices, rendering the pilgrimage financially unattainable for many.
Only 47,773 potential pilgrims have registered, falling significantly short of the 127,000 quota allocated to Bangladesh by Saudi Arabia for the 2024 Hajj season.
Scheduled to commence on June 14 and conclude on June 19, this year’s Hajj registration period in Bangladesh concluded on Jan. 18, following two extensions due to lackluster responses.
Efforts were made to disseminate registration information through various channels such as television, newspapers, and SMS, according to Mohammed Matiul Islam, additional secretary at the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The government is yet to decide on the remaining vacant slots.
In 2023, Bangladesh struggled to meet its Hajj quota due to soaring travel costs. To avert a similar situation in 2024, the government slashed Hajj package costs by $1,000. The minimum government rate for Hajj from Bangladesh this year is $5,034, down significantly from $6,000 in 2023.
While inflation and airfare were cited as main issues last year, the current scenario is more complex. Factors include concerns over political stability after the controversial general election, which was boycotted by the opposition.
In an election year, many people may have chosen to wait, and a considerable number of Bangladeshis are currently engaged in Umrah throughout the year, according to Shahadat Hossain Taslim, president of the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh.
Persistent inflation remains a significant concern, as the reduction in package prices does not offset the impact of the Bangladeshi taka’s devaluation against the US dollar.
Taslim remarked, “Due to the ongoing global recession, it is likely that Hajj quotas will not be met by many countries this year.”