Karachi, March 9: The countdown to the biggest fight in this part of the world has begun. And with it, a mad scramble not for tickets, not for visas, not for trains but — you got it wrong —for hotel rooms.
With only four days to go before Shoaib unleashes his missile power at Sachin in the first one-dayer in Karachi, practically all rooms in all hotels have been taken.
“This is the kind of boost the Pakistani hotel industry needed for a long time,” said Fakeha Imran, a senior sales executive at the Marriott Hotel.
Till before the Revival Series was announced, the hotel industry in Karachi had been in dire straits. There had been few visitors to the city that was known for its history of ethnic clashes.
But cricket appears to have changed that, even if temporarily. “I have never seen in all my life that you can’t find a single room in such a big city, that too with managements asking for full payment in advance,” said an employee working for a foreign wire service.
Not that the hospitality people are being very hospitable with the rates: most hotels have jacked up room charges and withdrawn all discounts and packages. Nor have they installed the huge flat-screen televisions yet, though the electronic scanners are in place.
At the five-star Sheraton, where both the Indian and the Pakistani cricket teams will be staying, single and double rooms with complimentary breakfast are selling at Indian rupees 9,600 and Rs 11,200 respectively, plus 15 per cent taxes. In low-budget ones, like the Regency Plaza, Sarawan and Skyways, rooms for Rs 1,600 are going for Rs 6,400.
“How can we offer discounts or a package to customers when the city is hosting a mega sports event'” asked Shazia Moeen, public relations manager at the Sheraton.
Some hotels denied having raised their rates. But they admitted they had been virtually auctioning the stray available room: handing the keys to the person willing to pay the most.
Many Indians, without prior reservations, are desperately shuttling between hotels to find a room. Clients walking in and asking for accommodation are not being entertained.
People on business trips are not having an easy time either. Ameer Hassan, a Lahore businessman, said: “I’m not here for the match… so why should I take extra burden on my pocket'”
But the die-hard fan is not complaining. For him, the battle is as big as it had been during the 1987 and 1992 world cups. “For us, it is the World Cup,” said an excited Mohammed Ismail.