Social media posts claiming hotels overcharged tourists in Murree amid snowstorm are only half true

Tourists complained that hotels charged between PKR 40,000 and PKR 70,000 per night. In one instance, an egg and small water bottle were allegedly sold for around PKR 300 each, while in another, PKR 5000 was charged for snow chains. But not all hotels in Murree were extorting customers

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Claim: Social media posts claimed that hotels in Murree started overcharging tourists during and in the aftermath of a snowstorm that enveloped the region in January. According to claims,  rooms that typically cost PKR 3000 per night were being rented out for between PKR 40,000 and PKR 70,000 per night. Additionally, people were being asked to cough up PKR 5000 to purchase snow chains for their cars.

Fact: The claims are half true. While some hotels in Murree did overcharge tourists during the snowstorm, not all did. Additionally, some posts circulating on social media regarding the issue are misleading and lack proper evidence.

In January 2022, after a snowstorm hit Murree, posts regarding hotels charging extortionate rates started making the rounds on social media. On 11 January, Soch Fact Check received a screenshot of a Facebook post claiming that a room that typically cost PKR 3000 per night was being rented out for between PKR 40,000 and PKR 70,000 per night, and individuals were being asked to pay PKR 5000 for snow chains. A number of similar posts and claims began to proliferate on Facebook and Twitter.

To investigate the claims, Soch Fact Check spoke with Tehsil Inspector Murree Mr Rana Karamat who investigated and handled the situation. Mr Karamat said that on the order of Assistant Commissioner Office Murree, he sealed different hotels for overcharging tourists. However, Mr Karamat clarified that not all the claims regarding hotels overcharging are true, stating that while a few hotels did overcharge tourists during the snowstorm, others were falsely accused of doing so in social media posts. For instance, posts claiming that Jamal Lodge charged PKR 20,000 per night for one room were going viral on Facebook and Twitter. The image of the viral bill can be seen below.

Mr Karamat verified that the news was not true, noting that the specific rooms referred to in the posts — D1 and D2 rooms — are not in fact available at Jamal Lodge. After investigating the matter, Mr Karamat said, it became clear that another hotel named Homeland had charged 20,000 per night but for two rooms with complimentary breakfast included, with 40% of that fee (PKR 8000) going towards agent commission. The keys for all the rooms available at Jamal Lodge can be seen in the image below.

 

In another instance, actress Fizza Ali made a video about Aroma Cafe Hotel, at one point claiming that she was charged over PKR 2,000 for just three hot teas. In reality, the PKR 2,000 bill included charges for other items as well. The image of the bill provided by Tehsil Inspector Mr Karamat Ali can be seen below.

Mr Karamat also noted that in many cases, individuals did not specifically name the hotels they were accusing of overcharging customers, making it harder to investigate the claims. A few complaints were investigated and on the basis of proper evidence, necessary measures were taken, Mr Karamat said, adding that many other claims made on social media were simply half-true or misleading.

That said, it does appear to be true that tourists were overcharged for snow chains. This was later verified by the Rawalpindi Police Department on its official Twitter account after relevant arrests were made.

Conclusion: While there have been some proven instances of hotels overcharging customers during the Murree snowstorm, posts making broad claims about Murree hotels extorting individuals are misleading. In fact, in some cases, hotels have been falsely accused of overcharging customers, as has been detailed above.

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