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How Andhra’s business hub is becoming a travel and leisure destination

yachts sailing along Vizag coast, Photo: IANS

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Visakhapatnam, April 5 (IANS) In the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh, this coastal city discovered its new identity and is now emerging not merely as the business and technology hub but also as a travel and leisure destination.

Though in the very first year of the truncated state, cyclone Hudhud battered the city, known popularly as Vizag, it bounced back with new vigour. The rebuilt infrastructure gave a new look to the city, adjudged the third-cleanest in India last year.

Though already recognised as a key hub for being the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command, the presence of a port, a steel plant and other industries, the city in the past did not get its due and was never branded properly. This was because, as people of the port city say, the focus of successive governments in undivided Andhra Pradesh was Hyderabad.

yachts sailing along Vizag coast

yachts sailing along Vizag coast, Photo: IANS

After the breaking up of Andhra Pradesh to carve out Telangana state with Hyderabad as its capital in 2014, Vizag found new importance. The state government launched an initiative to develop it as the country’s Fintech hub and a centre of new-age technologies. It has hosted partnership summits here for the last three years, witnessing signing of MoUs for massive investments in the state.

The government also started working on plans to develop Vizag as a travel destination. The yachting festival held on March 28-31 brought into focus the bustling city’s huge tourism potential.

The four-day festival organised by Andhra Pradesh Tourism in association with E-Factor Adventure Tourism Pvt. Ltd, saw a fleet of plush yachts descending on the Vizag shores, for the discerning enthusiasts who love engaging with lifestyle, water and adventure.

Organised with a vision to establish and put Vizag on the marine tourism map, the festival, said to be first of its kind in India, saw yachts cruising on the azure waters of the Bay of Bengal, providing sailing enthusiasts a breathtaking view of popular beaches like RK Beach, Rishikonda, Thotlakonda and Yerada. The on-board audiences were treated with activities like swimming, snorkelling, rescue demo by the Indian Navy and adrenaline-pumping displays of fly-boarding.

yachts sailing along Vizag coast

yachts sailing along Vizag coast, Photo: IANS

In the evenings when the yachts were parked at Vizag port, the audiences were entertained with musical performances.

It was the first attempt to introduce lifestyle tourism in Vizag, a key destination on the nearly 1,000-km-long coastline of the state. The organisers sold limited tickets, priced at a steep Rs 14,500 per person per day.

“Water holiday or yachting is a Richie rich, big boy’s holiday. Typically, one hour of yachting costs Rs 1 lakh in India,” Kaushik Mukherji, principal advisor to the Andhra Pradesh Ministry of Tourism, told IANS.

He believed yachting can contribute significantly to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “Though only one percent of society can afford yachting, it has a huge margin,” he explained, claiming that on India’s east coast, Vizag is the only place which can offer this kind of holiday.

Mukherji was confident that two years down the line there will be people who will come to Vizag for water holidays. “Why do I need to go to Bali when I can do it in Vizag? The reasoning is being created.”

The yachting festival was one of the marketing techniques to brand Vizag. “Andhra Pradesh has no better tourism card than Vizag. It was never marketed earlier. Vizag was always consumed by the word of mouth. There was no draw towards it. I am changing the perceived value,” Mukherji said.

Explaining why Vizag is important, Mukherji pointed out that its beach mountains were not found anywhere else. Every brick at Thotlakonda beach is 2,500 years old. He believed a Buddhism circuit can be created here and marketed in countries like Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China and Japan, which always look for Buddhism products.

A view of the music performance in the evening at Vizag port

A view of the music performance in the evening at Vizag port, Photo: IANS

“Ten miles from where we are sitting (Vizag port) is the (Pakistani) Gazi submarine which can be one of the finest diving sites of the world. I can give the best dive into the submarine which was sunk during the 1971 war.”

Mukherji believed different products for different segments of the market could help tap the state’s immense tourism potential. He set the ball rolling a year ago with Vizag Music Festival followed by the balloon festival in Araku valley, a picturesque location about 100 km from Vizag.

“We have to be clear about who our target audience is. It’s the promise which I am selling. People buy promises, not destinations,” he added.

Tourism currently contributes seven percent of the state’s GDP, but Mukherji believes powerful tourism brands can increase this to 24-25 percent.

IANS

Travel

Religious tourism in India: Royal Orchid Hotels opens a new property in Somnath

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With the growth in religious tourism in India, Royal Orchid Hotels one of the fastest growing hospitality chain in India adds a new property ‘Regenta Central’ in Somnath.

Nestled in the coastal city of Somnath, Hotel Regenta Central is suitably located on the main highway of Veraval and a 5 minutes’ walk from main Somnath temple. Hotel is well linked and located within 5 km from Veraval and Somnath Railway Station.

Regenta Central offers a comfortable stay in well-appointed rooms which incorporates the highest service value along with unique design and modern facilities. The hotel offers spacious banquet halls and plush lawns which can accommodate up to 2000 people for various occasions such as large scale family social gathering, business presentations, seminars and confidential corporate meets. The guests can also indulge in various relaxation activities at the hotel’s gymnasium, spa and swimming pool.

The hotel includes two restaurants PINXX and Sugar N Spice. PINXX – a multi-cuisine restaurant, serves vegetarian and kathivyadi delicacies. Sugar N Spice – is an à la carte multi – cuisine restaurant offering a delicious range of fast food and quick bites.

Somnath meaning “Lord of the Soma”, an epithet of Shiva, is first of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines. It is located on the western coast of Gujarat and is one of the oldest temples of the country. Reconstructed in the Chaulukya style of architecture, it portrays the fine skills of the oldest and best temple architects. The modern day Somnath Temple was built over five years, from 1947 to 1951 and was inaugurated by then President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

Apart from the magnificent temples of Somnath, it is also known for its picturesque beaches. Somnath beach which is located at the southwest end of the Arabian coastline is a perfect way to enjoy a serene evening after a long day of travelling. Both the locations are just 6kms away from the hotel, providing travelers the perfect blend of divinity and serenity.

Chander K. Baljee, Managing Director, Royal Orchid Hotels at the launch of the hotel said, “We are excited to add another property to our portfolio, continuing our ambition of expanding hotels across India. With a constant surge in domestic travelers, not only we are benefitted but also the consumers have an advantage of having affordable stay with finest facilities and services.

The current year looks promising for the hotel industry and we plan to make the most of it by expanding our brand all over India.”

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Travelling to US this summer? Apply for visa early

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Travel-to-US
Photo Credit: New Media Travel

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) The US Embassy here on Tuesday said that Indians planning to visit the US this summer should apply early for visas due to heavy demand.

In a statement, the Embassy said that applicants across India may have to wait 30 days or more for a visa interview appointment to become available and that it expects this wait time to continue for at least the next few months

“Mission India’s non-immigrant visa workload is one of the largest in the world, processing over a million visas a year,” the statement said.

“In the last five years, the demand for visas to travel to the United States has increased by over 60 percent.”

According to the statement, the Embassy in New Delhi and the four Consulates across India “are constantly working to improve service and meet demand, but applicants should be aware that the summer is a peak travel season and there will be delays in getting visa appointments”.

It also advised applicants are to beware of scams and fraud and reminded them that the only way to get a US visa is through official channels.

“Someone can either apply and have an interview at a US Embassy or Consulate, or if they have had a visa before and meet certain criteria, they may qualify to have their visa renewed,” the statement said.

“Anyone claiming they can guarantee a visa in exchange for a fee is attempting to defraud you. Applicants should be smart and apply the right way,” it added.

IANS

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The unexplored Indian paradise

While travelling through the North East, also experience a safari with a difference on yaks. Get a chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of Sikkim on one of the colourfully-adorned yaks, an experience definitely beyond compare!

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Sikkim Tourism

When you end up with some time for yourself, an escapist spirit awakens among many of us. Such is the chaos of our cities that we cherish even minor respites from it. One such respite is the Spiti Valley in the Himachal where the journey is just as blissful as the destination.

Once you hop onto your bike, you can choose between two routes to reach the scenic town of Spiti. The first option is entry from Manali via Rohtang and Kunzum La. Once you have passed Rohtang, it’s truly a heavenly experience, with the highest point being the snow-covered Kanzum pass with a breathtaking view of the Shigri Glacier. Alternatively, you can also opt for the more comfortable, yet longer, road from Shimla.

An absolutely breathtaking land, Spiti is a treat for all travellers, but especially bikers, with the majestic Himalayan landscape, amazing views, rich history and warm and friendly people. Also, be prepared for an overnight stay along the way preferably at Reckong Peo which is known to be a calm and serene stopover.

A ride through the beautiful barren landscapes of the Himalayas is the biggest draw of the valley. Another highlight of Spiti is the magnificently rich cultural past that is still alive in the ancient Gompas (monasteries) of the region and the enlightened monks that reside within them. Though they can be reserved initially, your curiosity for their culture and few smiles can win their hearts enough for them to offer you some refreshing cups of teas and insight into the Gompas like no other could. Amongst others that you might choose to visit, Key Gompa, Saskyagongmig Gompa and Dhankar Gompa are a must visit. If your curiosity for the local culture still refuses to subside, head over to the Tabo Monastery. 50 Kms from Kaza, it is one of the oldest functioning Buddhist monasteries in the world (est. 996 AD), with extremely well-preserved wall paintings and artifacts!

The Seven Sisters, as the North Eastern Indian states are commonly known, are where lush green forests, picturesque valleys and vibrant cultures come together to create magic. Each state has something special to offer and we are sure that these places will be the high points of your trip to the vibrant North-East.

Starting with Arunachal Pradesh, the Siang River is a must visit. A tributary of the mighty and ferocious Brahmaputra River, it’s a great spot for river rafting, an adventure that few can match up to in terms of thrills.

Moving on, situated in the valley of the Tawang River in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang Monastery is the largest monastery in India and second largest in the world after the Potala Palace in Tibet. Founded in 1680-1681 in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, it is known as in Tibetan as Galden Namgey Lhatse, which translates to ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’. Surrounded by lush green hills, the monastery provides a visually colourful contrast with the colour-rich murals on its walls, exquisite architecture and vibrant atmosphere. With peaceful serene atmosphere so strong, the monastery possesses an otherworldly quality to it that drives away all worries and stress you had.

From the ferocious avatar, we move on to Brahmaputra’s calmer side in Majuli. The biggest river island in the world, it is home to a number of tribes, each with a colourful vibrant culture that will enchant you on your visit here. While there, you can enjoy yourself with fun activities like pottery making, mask making or just soak in the natural beauty of its magnificent sunsets.

Talking of Meghalaya, you have your pick of nature with lush green hills and breathtaking views, quite a refreshing break from the city’s chaos. But look closer and you’ll find an experience that much richer. Littered among these hills are limestone deposits and a number of caves that will enthrall the explorer in you. Considering that many of these caves are some of the longest and deepest found in India, you are sure to feel all Indiana Jones during this once in a lifetime trek.

While travelling through the North East, also experience a safari with a difference on yaks. Get a chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of Sikkim on one of the colourfully-adorned yaks, an experience definitely beyond compare!

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