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AP hopeful of Rs 10,000-cr pvt funds in tourism projects

J. Nanda Gopal

HYDERABAD, Dec. 4

WHILE every one has recognised the importance of tourism as a growth engine for economic development, the Andhra Pradesh Government is refining and finetuning its efforts to promote tourism with the help of consultants to ensure transparency and quick de cision-making. But it has a long way to go in this direction to make a visible impact as it wants to do it with the help of private investors.

The investors are vary of chipping in money because they need to be convinced of the short and long-term returns in a professional way. While the Government is doing its best as a facilitator, there are a number of other imperatives and imponderables whi ch are beyond the scope of the Government. It needs a conscious and concerted effort on a massive scale by all those interested in the exercise. Ms Chandana Khan, Secretary of Tourism, spoke to Business Line on how the issue is being handled by the Gover nment.

She said the State Government was hopeful of getting private investments worth Rs 1000 crore in tourism-related projects before the end of the financial year. Four projects worth Rs 200 crore were ready to take off soon.

Of the four, the beach resort project at Rishikonda near Visakhapatnam is to be taken up as an Indo-American venture at a cost of Rs 38 crore. The rock garden tunnel scheme which forms a part of the eco-tourism project near Hussain Sagar lake will be tak en up by NRIs based in Dubai at a cost of Rs 27 crore.

A 3-D theatre, another major project costing Rs 52 crore, has been allotted to L.V. Prasad Productions and it will be executed in NTR Gardens.

Ms Chandana Khan said the Government had CRISIL as one of its consultants in appraising various projects. The land for the projects had been given on lease for 33 years at 5 per cent of the market value as annual lease rent. To attract investors, the lea se rent had been halved from 10 per cent.

A few more projects are in the pipeline and among them is an urban centre and shopping mall at Rs 200 crore to come up at Visakhapatnam. This project could be taken up by one party or more, she said.

She said a partnership summit of the Government and private investors was scheduled to be held in January when MoUs would be finalised.

Among the projects earmarked for privatisation are the development of Buddhist areas near Visakhapatnam, a 220-foot-high ropeway near Hyderabad, the Srisailam-Nagarjunasagar project, a crocodile park, a dinosaur project in Hyderabad, the Bhavani island n ear Vijayawada and the Pitchikalacheruvu near Rajahmundry.

While the Government had allotted Rs 45 crore last year for the tourism projects, this year it had provided Rs 15 crores and high-value physical assets, such as land and buildings for the projects. The Union Government had allotted Rs 8 crore for the Sta te projects.

A public goods company in the form of Andhra Pradesh Tourism Finance Corporation was to take shape in a month and it was expected to have a corpus of Rs 200 crore.

There are also plans to draft a number of policemen and train them in tourist protection duties. Public awareness programmes on the economic and social significance of tourism are on way. The education department has been addressed to make tourism a subj ect of study at the school and college level.

The Institute of Public Enterprises has been approached to plan HRD for tourism and train people in different areas, Ms Chandana Khan said.

To market AP tourism, the Government had allotted Rs 1 crore this year and road shows and press meets had been held in other States.

Referring to the need for a Tourism Registration Act, she said this aspect had come up for discussion at a secretaries' level conference held in Delhi but it was considered premature as tourism had a long way to go in different States to warrant its nece ssity.

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