Karachi plummets as workers flee

by Ben Walker , Friday 28th September 2001 16:17
While northern Pakistan's hotels fill up with international journalists, occupancies in Karachi, the largest city in southern Pakistan, have plummeted as foreign workers pull out.

Zia Mohuiddin, duty manager at the 252-bedroom Regent Plaza hotel, said it was about half-full and occupancy was 30% down. He added: "We are very distressed. We are waiting for war."

Contract caterer Zia-Ul is losing Rs100,000 (£1,062) a day. It holds a key contract with the London and Scottish and Marine Oil company (Lasmo) stationed in Karachi. Site manager Saiid Jamil said Lasmo had sent home its foreign workers - mostly Italians, British, Filipinos and Koreans.

"Nobody knows what is going to happen. Foreigners don't want to be killed here. They want to be with their families." He said that if the situation remained the same, jobs would be lost.

At the 219-bedroom Marriott hotel next to the US consulate, assistant executive manager Rafiq Aladin said occupancy had plummeted to 25% from usual 85% at this time of year. Corporate business, which accounts for 60% of revenue, had cancelled, and foreign journalists were staying in the north.

He said: "The next few days are very critical. Nearly all Pakistanis want a peaceful resolution."

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