By T S Sudhir
Lord Ganesha may not have been the inspiration when in 1995, Chandrababu Naidu chose the mouse as his hi-tech vehicle to hardsell Hyderabad. Impressed with a IT-savvy politician, the who’s who of the IT world connected to the 400-year-old city.
Fifteen years on, Andhra Pradesh is playing pied piper. It wants to be the favoured MICE destination in India. MICE expands to Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions.
As a first step, 720 members of the International Congress and Conventions Association (ICCA) trooped into Hyderabad this week, to see for themselves what the aspiring-to-be-big city had on offer. The swanky world-class Hyderabad airport won half the battle.
Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA was one man impressed with what Hyderabad has to offer.
“It is very positive,” he says. “To give you an idea, Brazil has 165 convention bureaux, Mexico has over 150. So every city is chasing business, domestically and internationally. So India has taken a positive step in the right direction. If they get it right here in Hyderabad, it will be copied from Delhi to Chennai.”
When it comes to domestic tourism, Andhra Pradesh has God on its side and that explains why it is on top of the charts. Some 129 million domestic tourists visited Andhra Pradesh in 2009 making it the number one tourist destination in India. At least 75 million of them were pilgrims to Tirumala-Tirupati.
Tourism secretary Jayesh Ranjan says despite attempts to develop tourist destinations around Tirupati like Horsley Hills, those travelling to Tirumala remain steadfast and focussed only on the Lord’s darshan. This has meant hill station and beach tourism around Tirupati hasn’t quite succeeded the way it was hoped and the tourist numbers haven’t translated into substantial revenues for the tourism sector.
But while God brings tourists to his abode, God’s own country doesn’t score too high on numbers. Despite the deceptive hype, Kerala received just 15 million domestic tourists in 2009. Perhaps time to redefine which is truly God’s own country? !!
What worries Andhra Pradesh is that it is nowhere near the most favourite destination for international visitors. With 7.67 lakh foreign tourists in 2009, it ranks seventh in the country, followed by Kerala at 5.48 lakh. It is Andhra’s neighbour Tamilnadu that attracts the maximum foreigners to its land, 23 lakh plus last year. Neighbours envy, owners pride !
But even as Hyderabad is being pitched internationally as the next big thing, as a MICE destination, officials are keeping their fingers crossed. Politicial turmoil over Telangana can spell doom for the numbers and dent Brand Hyderabad.