National

When Andhra Pradesh comes wooing with religious carrots

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 20, 2018

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AP makes a big pitch to hoteliers to invest in Tirupati and Vishakapatnam

Host a business conference at Tirupati and get rewarded with a “Sheegra Darshan” (quick view) VIP pass for every delegate at Tirumala Balaji temple. Organise a wedding at Tirupati and six members of the marriage party – bride, groom, and both parents – will get a VIP guided tour of Tirumula.

The Andhra Pradesh government is holding out religious carrots to lure business and wedding event planners to the new state. And strange though it may sound, the promise of a quick darshan at the most visited holy place in the world (Tirumala temple gets nearly a lakh pilgrims a day) is certainly no small thing.

Pitching strongly to 6,000 odd hoteliers gathered at the annual Hotel Investment Conference South Asia (HICSA) in New Delhi, Telugu Desam Party’s Y S Chowdary, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology outlined the benefits of developing hotels in Andhra Pradesh.

Post bifurcation, the newly carved out Andhra Pradesh has come out with an aggressive tourism blueprint that ambitiously seeks to rake in investments worth Rs 10,000 crore by 2020.

On the anvil are two mega convention centres at Vizag and Tirupati (that can take 10,000 people each), and a 5000- people capacity convention centre at Vijayawada. In addition, every district in Andhra Pradesh will have convention centres with 2000 people capacity, revealed Neerabh Kumar Prasad, Principal Secretary to Government, Tourism & Culture.

Both Prasad and Chowdary disclosed that Andhra Pradesh is also incentivising airlines to improve connectivity to its key cities – Vishakapatnam, Tirupati and Vijayawada. “It’s at the draft stage,” said the minister though he disclosed that airlines were being offered incentives to fly into a city before 9 am and operate the last flight out post 6 pm to encourage more day travel.

Andhra Pradesh has already slashed VAT on aviation turbine to 1 per cent. “What tax, we are practically nil now,” said Y S Chowdhary pointing out that Andhra Pradesh had the cheapest ATF.

According to the data released by the Andhra Pradesh Air Travellers Association, there has been 51 per cent growth in passenger traffic in airports in the state in 2015, with Vishakhapatnam recording 41 per cent growth over the previous year.

Going by the plans unveiled to attract the MICE (meetings and conventions) business, the state is clearly trying to do one better than Hyderabad (now in Telengana), which had created the first purpose built state of the art convention centre outsourcing the management to a hotel company – French chain Accor.

After a couple of years of doing great business, when political trouble hit the city, Hyderabad International Convention Centre unfortunately has seen poor demand. Clearly, Andhra Pradesh wants to grab the advantage when it comes to exploiting the MICE opportunity. It's promoting both Vishakapatnam - where along with the Indian navy it will develop aircraft carrying ship INS Viraat as a 500-bed floating hotel and resort once it is decommissioned in June - and Tirupati as big MICE destinations. "We had the international naval fleet review in Vizag recently," pointed out the minister.

Indeed, at HICSA – a sentiment analysis of hoteliers about Hyderabad shows an overwhelming inclination to sell out of the city of pearls.

Andhra Pradesh wants to capitalize with a slew of packages to give impetus to tourism and hospitality in the state. According to Prasad, there is a dearth of supply in the number of hotel rooms in Tirupati and Vizag (both have about 1,000 branded rooms apiece). Among other things, the AP government will be setting up an Indian Culinary Institute at Tirupati in addition to Hospitality Management Institutes at Tirupati and Kakinada.

Published on April 06, 2016

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