Andhra to promote beach tourism, compete with Goa?

Panaji, July 31 (IANS) Will Andhra Pradesh become the new Goa? It might, if the tourism minister is able to implement his plans.

With Telugu superstar-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, who is from Andhra Pradesh, as the minister of state for tourism (independent charge), the state is aiming to carve a niche for itself in beach tourism by pumping money into creating coastal corridors along the Bay of Bengal as well as developing eight of its beach properties.

Does Goa, which is currently a leader in India as far as beach tourism footfalls are concerned, serve as inspiration for Andhra Pradesh's next big tourism thrust? Not really, says Chandana Khan, Andhra Pradesh's special secretary (Tourism and Archaelogy).

"We think Goa has a very different set of offerings and it is not fair to compare the two diverse propositions. Andhra Pradesh has a very unique image and has something for everybody. This combination of unique choices makes India a special mix for the vacation planners," Khan told IANS in an email interview.

Khan further said that Andhra Pradesh did not need liquor to sell its beaches, unlike Goa, where a relaxed excise regime means cheap beer and other alcohol by the seaside.

"We do not aim to comment on the use of alcohol to promote any of our beaches. We believe the natural beauty of our beaches will attract consumers who want to take a break from the regular hustle-bustle of city life," Khan said.

With a 970-km coastline and relatively virgin stretches of beach, the Andhra Pradesh government now expects an investment of about Rs.1,000 crore ($222 million), through public-private partnership projects that it believes will shoot high the stock of its coastal tourism, along with the Rs.221 crore that has already been sanctioned by the union tourism ministry.

"Developing coastal areas and beach properties is integral to our plan. Accordingly, a separate coastal corridor is being developed to link Visakhapatnam with Bheemunipatnam (in northeastern Andhra Pradesh)," Khan said, adding that nine beaches including Baruva, Perupalem and Kotta Kudur, would get properties developed by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC).

To draw public attention to the beach belt, Khan said, the state tourism ministry is also in the process of promoting the beaches through cultural festivals which are organized in the coastal areas.

The focus on Visakhapatnam, she said, would also help the government to project the coastal city as a "world class tourism destination not only for domestic tourists but also for foreigners," she said.

Khan, however, rejected the possibility of privatizing beach stretches, an experiment which was carried out in Karnataka, where the Panambur beach in Dakshina Kannada district was let out to a private operator for development and tourism exploitation.

"There is no such possibility as there are many villages of fishermen all along the coast whose lives depend upon these beaches. Beach tourism, for that matter any tourism, should aim at providing benefits to the local communities, not sending them away from that area," she said, emphasizing on inclusive development of the region through tourism.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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