The Muslim umrah pilgrimage to Mecca from the state has been severely hit due to the demonetisation of high value notes.
Umrah tour operators said that number of bookings by pilgrims from the state has more than halved despite the Prophet's birthday in December. Many consider it auspicious to undertake the pilgrimage, coinciding with the birthday.
Tour operators who had operated as many as eight chartered flights from Kochi to Saudi Arabia during the months of November and December last year said they have meagre bookings this year.
"Last year we had flown eight chartered flights and had bookings of as many as 8,000 umrah pilgrims during November and December. But this year the bookings have come down significantly and has dropped to just over 1,000 due to demonetisation and the currency crunch. We have operated just one chartered flight and that was before the demonetisation announcement. Overall the bookings have come down by 50%," said Al Hind Tours and Travels general manager T Mohammed Haris.
He said that an umrah pilgrimage would cost anywhere between Rs 52,000 to Rs 65,000 per person and due to the cash crunch and lack of liquidity, many people are staying away from undertaking the pilgrimage for the moment.
Indian Haj Umrah Group Association secretary Ahammed P said that there have been many cancellation of umrah bookings by people due to the cash crunch.
"Many people who had made prior bookings have cancelled their bookings due to difficulty in arranging the cash. We used to have heavy flow of pilgrims in the month of Prophet's birthday, but the pilgrim numbers have fallen drastically after the demonetisation," said Ahammed.
He adding that they were unsure how long the situation will last. "We fear that it will extend till the end of the current financial year. But even the RBI authorities do not have any definite when the currency situation gets normalised," he said.