Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- Lahore set to welcome Indian cricketers

Published: Monday, March 29, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Lahore:A commercial bonanza is in the offing in Lahore as Pakistan's second largest city prepares to host Indian cricketers next week for the first time in 15 years.

All hotels have already been fully booked while roadside eateries and restaurants known for traditional dishes are undergoing a facelift while shopkeepers are planning special lighting in main bazaars, officials said. Even the taxi drivers are upbeat as the big event draws closer.

Led by captain Sourav Ganguly, a 15-member Indian team is due to arrive on March 10 for a much-awaited cricket encounter between the foes now treading a peace path.

The Indians will play a practice game in Lahore before flying to Karachi to play the first of the five One-day matches on March 13.

But Lahore, known as Pakistan's cultural capital will host two day and night matches on March 21 and 23 as well as a Test match later.

"From the posh five-star to the middle class, all hotels have been sold out in Lahore," travel agent Irfan Ahmed said.

"The cricket enthusiasm will surpass the usual boisterous annual kite flying festival of Basant when the city of eight million goes berserk with joy," general manager of a four-star hotel, Nadeem Qadir, said. He said his hotel was booked to capacity starting from March 15 until late April because of the cricket matches.

Lahore's three international-standard hotels have a capacity of around 1,000 rooms.

Most of the 8,000 Indian fans will be arriving through the nearby Wagah border, the only land crossing between the two counties, while thousands of others are expected to fly into the city from different countries.

"If you are calling for a booking, we are sorry we have no room until April 25," said the Pearl Continental hotel's deputy general manager, Haseeb Gardezi.

"This is an event which will attract a lot of people from across the world and hotels will benefit from the rush," said Gardezi whose hotel will host the Indian team. He said security would be stringent for the Indian guests.

The city's posh and popular hotels are charging up to 20,000 rupees (330 dollars) a day from the usual 100 to 120 dollars. Smaller hotels have also increased their room rents from 30 dollars to 150 dollars a day.

"This is the time to make most profits and enjoy the kind of income that we are going to generate in the next four weeks," said Mohammad Arif, owner of a 25-room hotel in the city's fashionable Upper Mall neighbourhood.

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