In an effort to attract more foreign visitors to the state, Andhra Pradesh plans to promote religious and medical tourism in a big way, the state minister for tourism and culture has said.
Describing Hyderabad as the "medical capital" of the country, J Geeta Reddy, herself a renowned gynecologist who had earlier worked in Australia, UK and Saudi Arabia, said the state had some of the best hospitals including the biggest gastroenteritis hospital.
"We can offer low cost quality treatment and in this connection we are streamlining the system to provide medical tourism in a package right from visa, treatment, recuperation and rejuvenation," she said in London on Monday during a presentation.
The state planned to attract patients mostly from the Middle-East countries, she said, adding, "It is building up slowly but it is quite promising."
On religious tourism, she said the Tirupati Venkateshwara Temple currently accounted for 45 per cent of the tourists and the Sai Baba attracted 35 per cent of international tourists.
The state government has revived the scheme to build a ropeway to the Tirupati Temple along with star hotels at the foothills of the world famous temple.
Earlier, there were legal hurdles for the acquisition of the land and certain "agama shastra" or rules of temple construction indicating that the ropeway should not be above Lord Venkateswara's statue.
"Now we are planning to have the ropeway along the existing bus route and it will be eco-friendly, free of noise pollution and will not violate agama shastra."
The issue will now be taken up with the chairman of the Tirupati Temple Authority, Reddy said.
As part of eco-tourism, the state government would encourage trekking and rock climbing in the state, she said.
Reddy said there has been a steady increase in the tourist traffic in the state.The number of domestic tourists has increased from 450,000 in 2003 to 750,000 this year and the number of international tourists has shot up from 67,000 in 2003 to 450,000 this year.