Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Events

Tampa airport makes Bollywood star arrivals a rooftop event

A parking garage roof isn't the fanciest venue reserved for International Indian Film Academy celebrities later this month.

But the open-air setting at Tampa International Airport offers relatively cheap and easy access to Bollywood movie stars arriving for IIFA weekend on April 24-26.

Starting today, the ninth floor of the airport's short-term garage is closed to unauthorized vehicles. Workers will transform the roof into a staging area for celebrity arrivals in two weeks.

For the price of parking, fans can gather there to see dance idol Hrithik Roshan, triple IIFA nominee Deepika Padukone and other visiting performers. Bollywood stars are known for fan-friendliness, so chances are good for getting photos and autographs.

"(IIFA has) actually made the airport arrival its own event," airport marketing director Kari Goetz said Wednesday.

"This is a particularly intelligent plan because it allows them to control the experience … rather than it being a free-for-all, which is great from a logistics and visibility standpoint," she said.

The garage roof and its 360-degree view of Tampa Bay will be adorned with IIFA's signature green carpet, a tented staging area and large-screen televisions showing clips from the arriving stars' movies.

Celebrities will disembark at gates on the airport's third floor, then will be escorted to the ninth for an official welcome to Tampa. Awaiting limousines will transport them to hotel destinations.

First arrivals are expected as early as April 21. Goetz doesn't expect issues with parking availability despite temporarily losing an entire floor of spaces. "Given the (garage's) capacity and the time of year, we shouldn't see any impact," she said.

Exactly when celebrities will land in Tampa is unclear. Most IIFA visitors from India will pass through customs and catch connecting flights at New York's JFK or Newark's airport. When famous names appear on official flight manifests, their estimated arrival time in Tampa will be announced on airport and IIFA social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

"Some might be coming really late at night, or in the middle of the day, not necessarily the most convenient times," Goetz said. "I don't know how much of the Bollywood fan base can take off three days of work and hang around a parking garage. However many that is, we're going to have some fun."

The airport's police department will lead security efforts, in cooperation with the FBI, Transportation Security Administration and local law enforcement agencies.

"Everything will be top, top security level," Goetz said. "Plus, these celebrities do travel with their own security contingents, as well."

In addition to welcoming signs, airport personnel will hand out business cards printed in Bollywood's primary language, Hindi, although English is commonly used in international dealings.

"We really did it more as a goodwill gesture," Goetz said. "We've been showing off our cards to the IIFA people, and they think it's really cool that we did it.

"Then they say: 'You know everybody reads English, right?' We're like, yeah, but it's more of a sign that we're very enthusiastic and happy to see them here."

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