Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The four-day Indian Travel Congress that begins at the Chennai Trade Centre in Chennai on Friday will showcase the city in particular and South India in general as a major “Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions destination and also popularise Tamil Nadu’s tourist attractions.

Giving details of the 56th edition of the congress organised by the Travel Agents Association of India, convention committee chairman Rajji Rai told reporters that 1,500 delegates had registered themselves for the convention being held here after 18 years.

The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation will play the host.

Mr. Rai said India had received 4.4 million tourists in 2006, and the target set by the Union Tourism Ministry was to achieve 10 million by 2010, coinciding with the Commonwealth Games.

“Growth Through Evolution” will be the main theme of the congress. Chennai was chosen after a stiff competition from Egypt, TAAI president C.V. Prasad said.

Main focus

“Our main focus is on opening up new destinations in South India and showcasing the exotic locales along with our rich cultural heritage.” India, he said, had always been a fascinating destination for foreign tourists because of its unique mix of heritage, spiritual and cultural tourism. “But, what we lack is good infrastructure, especially rooms in star hotels,” Mr. Prasad said. India was one of the most expensive tourist destinations.

“We have to work together to help reduce the cost and ensure that tourists come to India as repeat visitors.”

The congress would also strive to evolve new strategies to help the travel agencies survive in the highly competitive market driven by information technology. People power, eco aspects in tourism and tourism and aviation would be some of the key topics.

Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan will be the guest of honour at the inaugural function. Tourism Minister N. Suresh Rajan, Chief Secretary L.K. Tripathy and Ashok Leyland Managing Director R. Seshasayee will participate. Kanimozhi, MP, will deliver the valedictory address.