Will Andhra Pradesh become the new Goa? It might, if the tourism minister is able to implement his plans.
With Telugu actor-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 at present takes the lead in India when it comes to beach tourism footfalls, serves as inspiration for Andhra Pradesh’s next big tourism thrust? Chandana Khan, Andhra Pradesh’s special secretary (Tourism and Archaeology), disagrees.
“We think Goa has a different set of offerings and it is not fair to compare the two diverse propositions. Andhra Pradesh has a unique image and has something for everybody. And this combination of distinctive choices makes India a special mix for the vacation planners,” Khan said.
“The natural beauty of Andhra Pradesh’s beaches will attract consumers who want to take a break from the regular hustle-bustle of city life,” she added.
With a 970-km coastline and relatively virgin stretch of beaches, the Andhra Pradesh government now expects an investment of about Rs1,000 crore (Dh606 million), through public-private partnership projects that it believes will boost the stock of its coastal tourism, along with the Rs221 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 boast of 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 organised 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 visitors but also for foreigners”.
Khan, however, rejected the possibility of privatising 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 fishermen villages all along the coast whose lives depend on 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, emphasising on inclusive development of the region through tourism.