Neerabh Kumar Prasad
Principal Secretary, Andhra Pradesh Tourism
Working with Locals for Global Tourism
After its bifurcation in 2014, Andhra Pradesh is promoting tourism aggressively, focusing on domestic and international markets with some unique offers, says Prasad.
What has been the strategy of Andhra Pradesh Tourism after the creation of the new state?
I would say that after Andhra Pradesh has been formed, we have come out with a mission document and we have set ourselves clear targets. In terms of tourist arrivals, we want to increase from 93 million to 178 million. We want to increase investments in the tourism sector to INR 100 billion (EUR 1.3 billion). We want to increase the international arrivals to about 500,000. We want to set up our target of about how much we can contibute to the GDP in terms of revenues. So that’s one part of it.
Secondly, there are two major changes that we’ve brought about. We have identified nine themes and 42 sub-themes, which we are targetting about five tourist hubs for tourism development.
We have also mobilised our local entrepreneurs, the national entrepreneurs and even international investors. And we are mobilising private investments in a very big way. We want to make it clear that the government is not going to run the tourism business, the government is here to facilitate the tourism business. Rather private enterprises will run the business. So far, we have received commitment for INR 120 billion (EUR 1.6 billion) for the state and only in the tourism sector. Now that’s a very good beginning.
What are your targets and focus areas in terms of destinations?
The government is very focussed, not only on tourism but on the whole economy, we have set a target of a double digit growth. India is already an island of economic growth and Andhra Pradesh is going to be an island within that island, growing at over 10 pc a year. For tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP, the target is 7 pc, meaning rise in total tourism revenues from the current INR 300-450 billion (EUR 4-6 billion).
For the international markets, especially Europe, what does AP have to offer ?
We have a wide variety, almost customised for various European countries. For example for the Spanish market or European market, I give the focus area of Visakhapatnam, this is a beautiful city. It’s a city that was setup with the colonial rulers of that time. It was initially with the Netherlands, in Bheemunipatnam. We have a lot of Dutch and English heritage here and most importantly, it is a city of beaches and hills-it’s beautiful. You can see the whole sea from a cliff top and the scene is mesmerising. You also have valleys and tribals here, indeed the entire gamut of things to see. It’s a perfect destination for any person who wants to come and spend some leisure time. We are also targetting it as a destination for business meetings and conferences (MICE). But at the same time, Visakhapatnam is also an ideal destination for a family and for an individual traveller as well.
The other destination, which I wanted to talk about is Konaseema backwaters in Andhra Pradesh ! People might confuse it with Kerala (laughs) but these are the new backwaters of Incredible India and it is as beautiful, if not more, as the other backwaters. And this is the new destination we are developing. It is serviced by Rajahmundry airport and we have big hotels in Rajahmundry and Kakinada. It also has mangroves and a bird sanctuary. The entire area is very rural, with fisheries, artisans, handicrafts and handloom. There is also the delta of the beautiful and mighty Godavari river. It’s an experience which I am sure everyone would like to seek and cherish for long.
Then, we also have French heritage in this place. There was a French enclave in Yanam and we want to promote tourism from France to this place as Yanam has preserved a lot of French heritage. In fact, there is also an ‘Eiffel Tower’ in Yanam. And Yanam is right here in the same area with Spanish, Dutch and English heritage, so an ideal destination for the entire European market.
What are the intitiatives taken by the government in the area of responsible tourism?
We are here for responsible tourism, we are here for tourism with local participation. I talked about local entrepreuneurs and everywhere we are making sure that there is local participation in the activities.
But we are also here for mid-level and high-end tourism, we are not here for let’s say backpacker tourism. We are very clear on that. All our products are at the mid-level and the higher-end of the market and that’s one thing we want to preserve. We want to be the destination where you want to be, not where you go by default.