Having set a target of attracting private investments to the tune of Rs.10,000 crore in tourism sector over the next five years, the Andhra Pradesh Government is poised to transform the sylvan surroundings of Godavari region into a tourism hub for beckoning international tourists.
The idyllic Konaseema in Godavari districts is an oasis of enchanting beauty, peace and tranquility that has captured the imagination of Telugu writers, poets, playwrights and performers for long. Its magnificent landscape, artistic temples, lavish greenery, lustrous coconut grooves and fields have been staple settings for many a Telugu film. Surrounded by other beautiful locales like Papi Kondalu (Papikondalu), Kolleru Lake, Maredumilli Forest (Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary), Mangrove (Mada) Forest (Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary), Konaseema region has great potential to be sought-after tourist destination. While it is a popular spot for picnics within the state, the beautiful locale has not been promoted for national and international tourists in the past. However, the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department, shifting its focus towards attracting the international tourists, has taken the Kakinada-Hope Island-Konaseema tourism circuit project as its maiden venture in the new mission.
Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who has drawn plans to make Kakinada a potential Tourism hub, laid the foundation stone for Rs 70 crore tourism project, linking the Kakinada beach, Hope Island and the Konaseema area. Though the funds earmarked by the government for the tourism circuit project are Rs. 70 crore, the department is planning to make it a Rs. 300 crore project, by inviting bids from the private players under the Public Private Partnership mode. The Tourism Department is going to invite international bidders for preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the project being funded by the Union government under the ‘Swadeshi Darshan’ scheme.
“Our aim is to involve consultants of international repute in the making of the DPR. As they knew the taste of international tourists, the outcome will certainly be attracting the foreigners,” says Neerabh Kumar Prasad, Principal Secretary (tourism and culture) to the State government.However, this will be possible only when international tourists turn up in large numbers, which is not the case with AP at present. “In 2013, AP stood third in the domestic tourism sector. When it comes to international tourism, it is in the 19th place at the national level. The statistics clearly indicate that there is a lot to do here to attract the international tourists,” Neerabh Kumar Prasad points out.
New Tourism Policy
Despite some issues, Andhra Pradesh has the distinction of being a leading tourism destination in India and is presently, the third most visited State in terms of domestic tourism. In 2013, 152.1 million domestic tourists visited Andhra Pradesh, which was about 13.3% of the total domestic tourism market.
“The intrinsic potential of developing Tourism Infrastructure Projects and Services in Andhra Pradesh, when leveraged effectively and creatively, would make the State highly competitive and possibly, unmatched across other domestic and international destinations,” the new Tourism Policy says. Under the new policy, the State Government has set a target of attracting private investments to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore in tourism sector over the next five years, beginning with at least Rs 1,000 crore during 2015-16, besides targeting to generate 5 lakh jobs. The policy envisages contribution of seven per cent to GSDP by 2020, allotment of land on lease for 33 years and slew of incentives to promote PPP mode investments.
Under the new policy, unlike in the past when some of the major infrastructure projects in tourism sector used to be funded through AP Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) or Government of India, the State government would act more like a facilitator and promote private investment in a big way. The policy promotes ease of doing business and the government is offering various incentives, including VAT related. The State’s Tourism Department has already identified Rs 18,000 crore worth of projects which include development of beach resorts along Vizag-Bheemili corridor, riverside resorts in the backwaters of the picturesque Konaseema, a ropeway project in each of the 13 districts, cruise/ small boat services and setting up of modern convention centres in each district.