Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

Bollywood deemed success for Tampa

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Ravish Agarwal flew into town from a home in the U.S. Virgin Islands with tickets for the 15th annual International Indian Film Academy Awards. He spent just two days in Tampa.

Long enough, it seems, to consider Tampa as a potential home.

"Tampa is a beautiful city. I love it," said Agarwal, 58, as he waited for a flight home at Tampa International Airport on Sunday. "I was telling my wife this is a place to retire, actually. Life is very calm and quiet. No rush, no traffic jam."

Talk like that quickens the pulse of Tampa's political and business leaders who hoped to sell the Tampa Bay brand to an audience from around the world. As Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn noted, the world knows Orlando and Miami.

He said Tampa has "been somewhat a faceless, nameless place in the eyes of the world."

And the four-day event, which culminated with the award show Saturday, appeared to go off with few problems, organizers said.

"I never had any doubt we could do it," Buckhorn said. "But to see it all come together flawlessly, I feel today like I felt the Sunday after the (2012 Republican National Convention). I got a chance to see the city rise to the occasion with the world watching and absolutely hit it out of park."

But building an international brand for Tampa, he said, will take a focused effort over a period of years. "It's not just one event," Buckhorn said.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, one of the local leaders who spearheaded efforts to bring Bollywood to Tampa, said crowd estimates for IIFA's show Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium fell between 28,000 to 30,000.

That figure could not be confirmed on Sunday, with organizers saying at least 25,000 people attended.

"It opens doors for us as a community," Higginbotham said. "It tells the world who we are."

Andre Timmins, a founder and director of IIFA's parent company, Wizcraft International Entertainment, based in Mumbai, said his company was impressed with Tampa and was pleased with the results.

"From our perspective, we were very happy," Timmins said. "First of all, it didn't rain. As usual, it was sunny Florida."

He noted that IIFA may not have come to Tampa had the city not had the track record of hosting the RNC.

"With these kind of events coming in here to Tampa, it is just a track record" that will help the city win other events in the future, Timmins said.

"Ultimately, what we set out to achieve happened," he said. "Tampa rocked."

No one's sure what the long-term effect of the Bollywood invasion might be on the region.

Nitish and Shephali Rele have already seen extra exposure for their Tampa-based monthly newspaper, Khaas Baat, but it's difficult to know how that will play out.

Nearly a decade old, the statewide Khaas Baat draws its advertising support from a predominantly Indian-American cast of business owners and professionals.

Rele wonders: Will the exposure bring in non-Indian advertisers? "We are hoping we will see some results of this event down the road," he said.

Key to landing the awards was the support of Tampa cardiologist, businessman and philanthropist Kiran Patel, who put up his own money to make the event possible.

"There were many skeptics, there were many people who thought this cannot be pulled off, but it happened," Patel said. IIFA recognized Patel and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel, with an award Saturday for "outstanding contribution by an Indian in the U.S."

IIFA visitors were expected to account for 10,000 to 12,000 hotel room nights in Hillsborough County.

Visit Tampa Bay president and CEO Santiago Corrada said it may be late May before hotel tax receipts are tabulated. But he expects a good economic impact.

"I can tell you a lot of people were here spending money," said Corrada, who spent time at a downtown hotel observing. "I sat in the lobby and saw people with lots of bags of clothing and toys. They were out at the mall. They're dropping their money here."

As for Agarwal, the Virgin Islands resident of Indian descent, he said he has now narrowed his retirement choices to either Tampa or Atlanta. He really liked the uncrowded highways, though he has not seen Interstate 275 at rush hour.

But Buckhorn said, compared with India's densely populated Mumbai, Tampa traffic is a breeze.

"I'd take 275 any day of the week," Buckhorn said.

Times staff writers Richard Danielson and Patty Ryan contributed to this report.

Comments
A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

ST. PETERSBURG — Not all sinister toys are as obvious as a Chucky doll. Many present more subtle threats — choking hazards, high lead content, privacy concerns. And as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks off, consumer advocates are urging s...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

It has been years since Detroit, birthplace of the American auto industry, was a steady producer of the manufacturing jobs that defined it as the Motor City. But its comeback is entering a new phase.The latest milestone came this week, with the annou...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Associated PressWASHINGTON — Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend — but not by choice. Under court order, the industry for the first time will be forced to advertise the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

TAMPA — Panama’s Copa Airlines, which four years ago became the first airline to offer service between Panama and Tampa Bay, said it is increasing its nonstop service between Tampa International Airport and Panama City to daily flights starting in Ju...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Despite Hurricane Irma, Florida hit another record high number in tourists visiting the state in the first nine months of this year, according to figures released this week.Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau, said 88.2 million visitors came to...
Updated: 6 hours ago
FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday followed through on his pledge to repeal 2015 regulations designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally, setting up a showdown ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

TAMPA — You can collect $110,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest in the Seminole Heights killings, but for now you’ll have to make two stops.The David A. Straz Foundation announced Monday it would contribute $10,000 to a reward f...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Times Staff Writer ST. PETERSBURG — World and national tragedies are changing the city’s approach to security for special events at North Straub Park.With the approach of the holidays, concrete barricades have been erected at a section of the park’s ...
Published: 11/21/17
Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

TAMPA — It’s been more than a century since Ybor City’s first public school was demolished on the plot of land now identified as 1311 E. Eighth Ave.For the past 22 years, the popular concert venue New World Brewery took up the space and one next door...
Published: 11/21/17
Hurricane Irma hurt some Tampa Bay home sales even in October

Hurricane Irma hurt some Tampa Bay home sales even in October

Pinellas County home sales took another hurricane-related hit in October as the rest of the Tampa Bay area bounced back from Hurricane Irma.But while prices in all four counties rose once again, the rate of increase continues to slow. Hillsborough’s...
Updated: 5 hours ago