Hyderabad: The People's Plaza at Necklace Road resembles a store house of Republic Day floats, waiting to surprise the discerning visitor to the place. Not surprisingly, it is this very unique selling proposition of the India International Travel Mart (IITM) that promises to endear it to one's senses.
Walk through the replica of the Warangal Gate at the Andhra Pradesh stall or sit on ethnic wooden chairs in the courtyard of a mahal at the Rajasthan stall. Or better yet, ask to watch dandiya dancers perform a captivating dance around the Gujarati stall, just for you.
And for those seeking a glance at heritage sculptures of our ancient Indian or a riot of emotions on print, the stalls of Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir entice you in equal measure.
"The travel mart has definitely grown bigger this year. From around 30 stalls when it started 10 years back, today there are over 150 participants from around the globe and country", commented Rohit Hangal, director of Sphere Travel Media and Exhibition, organisers of the mart. And the increased participation means increased fortunes as well.
"Such shows are a brand building exercise. Hyderabad may not receive a huge crowd as do similar shows in Bangalore, but here the retail market is bigger, whereas in these other cities it's all about business-to-business (B2B) transactions", said R Abhishek of makemytrip.com, which is also a part of the fair.
As if to prove his point, Abhishek points out that already within the space of a few hours, they have registered a couple of confirmed bookings worth Rs 1.5 lakhs each, to travel to destinations like Singapore and Malaysia. Even Nikita Rawatani of TMIC, a travel agent company, admitted that despite the first day of any travel mart being a B2B affair, Hyderabad is a great crowd puller for all kinds of travellers.
But the beauty of this year's travel mart is the approach to accommodate foreign bound destinations as well.
If a shining red board that screams Swiss rail welcomes you at the entrance, inside one can soak in stalls of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia and Dubai among others, which present equally good descriptions of the exotic destinations.
Krishna Dhakal at the Nepal stall expressed hope that more South Indians would be aware of Nepal as a tourism destination and visit the mountain country soon. Some tour operators such as Sri Lankan airlines were also seen offering discounts and free tours for spot bookings.
Their representative Raveesh revealed, "We have already managed to get booking from a tour operator who visited us in the morning. He had come looking for discounted offers to Sri Lanka for a team travelling under him. Apart from that a number of queries are pouring in. This is a good sign, since this is the first day and the queries received can be translated into business transactions over a period of time."
Earlier in the day, Sabyasachi Ghosh, commissioner-tourism of the Goverment of Andhra Pradesh expressed hope that the travel mart would help register an increase in both inbound and outbound tourists from the state. He also announced the ongoing eco- tourism project being undertaken in the backward district of Adilabad and stressed on the plan to implement Phase II of the Charminar project as soon as possible.
"Restoration and illumination of tombs that fall under the heritage circuit in Hyderabad will be undertaken in the new phase", he added.