Hyderabad: Bollywood actor-couple Ajay Devgn and Kajol will be the brand ambassadors of Andhra Pradesh tourism as the state attempts to appeal to a broader pan-India audience in its bid to become the country’s most preferred tourist destination.

Cash-strapped Andhra Pradesh, home to sandy beaches and religious hotspots such as Tirumala, Puttaparthi and Amaravathi, is trying to promote tourism to generate additional income. The state has the country’s only submarine museum in Visakhapatnam. The state government also plans to convert aircraft carrier INS Viraat into a 500-room hotel or resort after it is decommissioned from service later this year.

The N. Chandrababu Naidu government is encouraging five star resorts along its coast, mainly in the scenic city of Visakhapatnam. Last month, Essel Group executives evinced interest in developing an island for tourism purposes and in constructing a multi-storeyed centre for “fun and recreational purposes".

About 121.8 million tourists visited Andhra Pradesh in 2015, a 30% increase over the previous year, according to the state government. Of these, 237,000 were foreign tourists mainly from Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and West Asia.

Bollywood actors have been active tourism brand ambassadors of different states and countries. Amitabh Bachchan was the brand ambassador of Gujarat tourism, while Akshay Kumar of Canada. Aamir Khan was the face of Indian tourism before he was sacked last year, following his criticism of the government over growing intolerance in the country. Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra are the new mascots of Incredible India tourism campaign.

Devgn’s appointment as the tourism brand ambassador of Andhra Pradesh comes despite a thriving Telugu film industry, the home base of stars such as Chiranjeevi, Prabhas and Mahesh Babu.

Devgn offered to don the mantle of brand ambassador at a meeting with chief minister Naidu in Vijayawada on Tuesday. A government statement said Naidu immediately agreed. It was not immediately clear if the Bollywood actors would be compensated for their role as brand ambassadors.

Devgn also proposed to build an entertainment and media city in the state’s upcoming capital Amaravati. The actor and his team made a power point presentation to the chief minister about the project. The actor also expressed his willingness to build a virtual technology studio in the state.

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