Blessed with beautiful beaches, an evolving music scene, new hotels and big convention centres, can Vizag be the next Goa in hosting large-scale events? Nivedita Ganguly finds out

Not very long ago, Vizag was described in two words – beautiful and laid-back. Today, the city seems to be an exact anti-thesis of this. While the geographical advantages of the city, with its proximity to Eastern Ghats and sublime beaches, have catapulted Vizag to the top of the leisure travel map of India, one phenomenon silently took shape over the past two years. It was a remarkable metamorphosis of brand ‘Vizag’ into an events destination. The city has not only hosted international entertainment events that are transforming the city’s nightlife and lifestyle, but it is also being touted as a destination that can host MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) events on a big scale.

Hotels with more room inventories and big convention centres have brought in many corporate companies to the city. The significance of the city to the MICE industry is that it dashes an exciting layer to business meetings and conferences transforming them from boring all-work-no-play get-togethers to something pleasurable. While work is definitely the priority, the icing on the cake includes thrilling new destinations and enjoyment. “Vizag has the perfect balance for it all. Where in India would you get such hotel properties with a seafront! This has certainly been a major draw, along with the new room inventories and convention centres coming up,” says Madhav Bellamkonda, chief operating officer of Varun Group and General Manager of Novotel Hotel.

While the second half of 2013 was marred with political unrest dampening the spirit of the industry, the hotel managed to host many conferences for top Pharma and automobile firms in the first half of the year. Mahindra and Mahindra, Maruti Suzuki, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Hospira – were some of the firms that held their conferences in the hotel. With the MICE industry in India growing at a rate of 20 per cent annually, hoteliers see a big role for Vizag.

Music scene

Conferences apart, the growing nightlife in the city and its young music lovers have evolved the city into a hub of many international events and music festivals. Asia’s largest Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival Sunburn, which is held on the beaches of Goa in December every year, brought to Vizag an experience that matched up to the Goan feel with ‘Sunburn Reload’. It kicked off the EDM scene in the city at the beachfront of The Park that was packed with music lovers enjoying the mind-numbing musical experience by DJ Anish Sood and Lost Stories from Goa.

“The biggest shows surrounding the music scene of Vizag were the EDM events. Two years ago, events were simply film-based . But last year saw international and national artistes choosing to perform in the city. Vizag has great potential that needs to be tapped,” says Rahul Kedia of Bassment. Rahul recalls that last year even Nikhil Chinapa was totally floored by the beauty and potential of Vizag and had expressed his desire to hold his festival here every year if the civic authorities cooperated.

Vizag saw, for the very first time, names like DJ Allure – an international artist of Tomorrowland (one of the largest electronic music festivals of the world) – performing at the Big Beach Bounce event. The fantastic beachside locale of Vihar at Rushikonda wrapped up the year by hosting the Vizag Music Carnival with DJ Sandunes introducing live electronica to music lovers in the city.

“Today EDM music has become synonymous with Vizag. As larger venues and hotels open up in the city, the music and events scene is set to get better and better. In the last two years Vizag has hosted several international musical concerts such as an international violin festival that featured musicians from across the world,” says Meenakshi Anantaram of Razzmatazz. This year, the events management firm is gearing up to host an international band show featuring top pop stars.

Challenges

The future of Vizag as an events destination may look bright, but the journey has been anything but smooth. Political instability resulted in many events like the A.R. Rahman show getting cancelled and the sentiment throughout the later half of 2013 was not very high. Hoteliers are hoping that the New Year will bring in greater stability and thus, turn Vizag into a hotspot of events, business conferences and shows.

“I see great potential in Vizag being a MICE destination. But the city can be much more — For instance, it can be a golfing destination by itself,” says Ajit Garcha, General Manager of The Park.

And what would make the city reach the level of Goa when it comes to hosting events at a national level is the support of civic authorities and policymakers, feel event managers and hoteliers. “The beaches of Vizag are much more beautiful than Goa. But to pull off a national level event, we need the support of government officials. Only then the city will throw open more avenues for international artistes to perform here. The beginning is made, but we still have a long way to go,” says Rahul.