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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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India is next destination for Buckhorn

TAMPA — Three days after he gets back from a trade mission to Panama, Mayor Bob Buckhorn will join another delegation heading to Mumbai, India.

The three-day visit will promote Tampa ahead of the International Indian Film Academy awards show, the so-called Bollywood Oscars, which opens here April 23.

“We need to create that buzz in India,” said Santiago Corrada, president of Visit Tampa Bay, the region’s primary tourism agency.

Buckhorn is leading a delegation of 40 Tampa-area business leaders, including a dozen administrators from the University of South Florida’s health division, on a three-day trip to Panama to promote investment here.

That group is expected to return this evening.

Corrada’s agency is covering the cost of the Mumbai trip, which will include Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham and Kiran Patel, the Tampa philanthropist who helped bring the Bollywood Oscars to Tampa.

Corrada said Patel helped arrange meetings for Buckhorn and Higginbotham with local economic development groups in Mumbai. The Tampa delegation will also attend Tuesday’s announcement of the award nominees, Corrada said.

“The purpose of the meeting is to promote and encourage people to come to Tampa for the event and beyond,” Higginbotham said.

Higginbotham said he would relish seeing the sights in India’s largest city, but he doubts there will be time with wall-to-wall conferences planned.

“But just being in a different setting will be an exciting and educational opportunity, and it’s a long way from Plant City,” Higginbotham said, referring to his hometown.

When it arrives in Tampa, the Bollywood Oscars will bring with it tens of thousands of Indian film fans from across the world. Over the course of the weekend, it will fill venues from Tropicana Field to the Tampa Theatre to Raymond James Stadium.

The weekend will also include a business conference organized by Kaushal Chari, head of the college of business at the University of Florida.

Part of the conference goal will be to connect businesses in Asia with similar firms in the Tampa Bay area and Florida, Higginbotham said.

Corrada said next week’s 20-hour flight to Mumbai will lay the foundation for that forum as well.

“It’s about building up that rapport ahead of that business forum,” he said.

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