Note Book: A tale of dead hotels

Published September 2, 2014

THERE was a time when hotels in Karachi — from two stars to five stars — were home to many travellers who used to frequently visit the city from all over Pakistan as well as abroad. Sadly, many of these mehmaan khaney are now a thing of the past and for the new generation, they may be as good as dead. When was the last time you entered a hotel just out of curiosity?

Most of the city’s major hotels are located in the vicinity of Saddar, with quite a number of them scattered in the all-important ‘red zone’. Apart from these major hotels in or near the red zone, the rest are waiting for travellers who might never arrive, considering the city is no more the safe haven it was decades ago.

What has really dented the hotel business in the city is the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan. For a city where people thronged for work (or to search for work), Karachi has lost its mojo, in simple words. The city’s security situation changed when criminals were given a carte blanche to rule Karachi; in the metropolis nearly every other person, local or visitor, has either been robbed, deprived of mobile and/or belongings or has faced horror of some kind during his or her stay in the former City of Lights.

The emergence of relatively inexpensive rest houses that are available here and there has also played a part in the downfall of hotels. These rest houses (and/or guest houses) have better room service and are cleaner.

In the past, when families wanted to throw a party, they used to go to the many hotels in the city. That was before the days of food courts, multiplex cinemas and shopping malls. Now, with so many options, hotels are not the first place one would go, considering that malls are relatively safer options.

A few months ago one of the leading hotel chains of the world quit their profitable business in the city after bomb explosions nearby, in what was supposed to be the most secure part of the city. Another hotel in the same vicinity was brought down as business wasn’t as profitable as before.

This is not the tale of all the hotels in the city, though. A hotel near the airport has given the others in the city tough competition by being different and one must learn from them. If the nearly dead hotels don’t improve their quality, their ambience and service, they are bound to go extinct like the once-mighty coffee houses, Irani restaurants and standalone cinemas. Karachi will be the loser if that ever happens.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2014

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