Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa organizers plan cultural training for Bollywood Oscars workers

TAMPA — Before those 30,000 visitors arrive for the Indian film industry's version of the Academy Awards in April, Tampa's hosts want to make sure hotels, restaurants and others strike just the right note of welcome.

So Visit Tampa Bay is planning a series of online training sessions to raise the cultural awareness of frontline personnel in the bay area's hospitality industry.

"Obviously, there are some dietary differences" — many Hindus do not eat beef, and Muslims do not eat pork — Visit Tampa Bay president Santiago Corrada said during a panel discussion Tuesday night of plans for the Bollywood awards show.

"There are travel customs that are different, there are some time differences," he said. "You know, we get up here 7:30 a.m. to do meetings and that's very different from what maybe someone in Mumbai is accustomed to."

So the goal is to prepare webinars on being culturally sensitive, good hosts for hospitality workers, volunteers and anyone who is interested, Corrada told members of Ad 2 Tampa Bay, an organization for young advertising professionals.

The curriculum should be ready by the end of February, with the training taking place in March, though it's not clear yet how many people could get the training.

"I think there's quite an interest," Corrada said, noting that some local chefs have expressed an interest in developing menus sensitive to the do's and don'ts of hosting Indian visitors. "We are known for being great hosts because we focus on detail."

The International Indian Film Academy's 15th annual Weekend & Awards is scheduled for April 24-26. An estimated 20 percent of the visitors are expected to come from abroad, with the rest coming from across the United States.

Organizers say it will be four days focused on Indian culture, movies, music and fashion.

There will be an open-to-the-public Indian dance music festival at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, an "IIFA Rocks" live music and fashion event at the University of South Florida Sun Dome and a two-day business forum at the Tampa Convention Center.

And on April 26, with stars walking IIFA's green carpet into Raymond James Stadium, a song-and-dance-filled awards show will be broadcast to a global television audience of perhaps 800 million.

IIFA plans to bring a contingent of 800 to 1,000 movie industry representatives to Tampa.

There will be security, but nothing as intense as the riot-ready officers and automatic rifle-toting Florida National Guard soldiers patrolling the streets during the Republican National Convention.

"You will not see that during the IIFA Awards weekend," Corrada said, predicting more pedestrian traffic as Bollywood movie fans try to catch a glimpse or a selfie with a favorite star.

"What you're going to see is this electric environment downtown where most of the IIFA headquarter hotels will be and where these stars, these producers and these directors will be staying and the fandemonium that follows them."

IIFA representative Janak Vora said he often is asked why organizers chose the Tampa Bay area. The answer, he said, reminds him of the old Avis "We try harder" ad campaign.

Last year, Tampa was competing against bigger and better known cities that included London, which had hosted the event before and wanted it again.

"We've been to some very large global locations," Vora said. "What we noticed about Tampa was ... it's all about the enthusiasm of the people. It's about the enthusiasm of the community."

The local support has been good, he said. The infrastructure the event needs is sound. Officials are easy to work with.

"We are happy that we took the decision to be here in Tampa," Vora said. "We have not regretted it a single moment."

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