|This year's International Indian Film Academy Awards, to be held in Toronto June 23-25, will have more of a business focus than other IIFA events in the past, said a spokesperson for Ontario Tourism.|
The event will also feature some new faces: Anil Kapoor, Preity Zinta and Akshay Kumar have signed on to promote the IIFA weekend, replacing Amitabh Bachchan who had earlier served as the event's brand ambassador (I-W, Jan. 21).
In addition to the regular fashion, movie and sports events, IIFA 2011 will include a global business forum, presented in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. "The forum will help strengthen investment and trade opportunities between Ontario and India," said a spokesperson.
Previous IIFA weekends have taken place in Singapore, South Africa, London, Malaysia, Macau and other international destinations, though never before in North America.
The IIFA Weekend and Awards is expected to attract nearly 40,000 visitors, while "hundreds of millions of viewers around the world are expected to tune in on television to watch the awards gala that will showcase Toronto and Ontario," the spokesperson added.
As always, the IIFA weekend will culminate in the flashy IIFA Awards, one of the Indian film industry's most exciting performance nights.
Local children around Ontario will also benefit from the IIFA Weekend and Awards, said a spokesperson. This year, the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto, York and Peel, Ontario, were selected as the designated charities for IIFA.
The premier of Ontario province, Dalton McGuinty, said in a statement that promoting Ontario as an international destination for tourism, culture and business was part of his government's "Open Ontario Plan."
"Ontario's diversity makes us stronger and the IIFA Weekend and Awards are proof of that," McGuinty said in a statement. "The weekend will build on the growing economic and cultural ties between our province and India and showcase Ontario to the world."
McGuinty has led two trade missions to India that resulted in 52 agreements with projects valued at $650 million, said the Ontario Tourism spokesperson.
Sabbas Joseph, director of IIFA, noted, "Toronto is a great choice for IIFA's North American premiere. We have already gained a great response from people across Canada, America and key territories across the world with guests eager to join the celebrations in Toronto. We are certain that this year's IIFA will be absolutely memorable."
The Press Trust of India reported Feb. 25 that Bollywood A-lister Kumar would leverage his position as a well-known liaison between India and Canada to promote the event.
"Canada is a beautiful country and I often recommend it as a shooting destination to directors. Bollywood has a huge fan following there and it is a charming place," Kumar told PTI.
Derek Galcin, managing director for Canada Tourism, added, "We are working very closely with IIFA to make it a success and we also have Akshay, who is a huge star in both countries, helping us promote the event."
Kumar also spoke at an event Mar. 3 in New Delhi that was sponsored by the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Trade between Ontario and India amounted to $1.5 billion in 2009, up by over 90 percent since 2003.
Ontario Tourism reports that nearly 600,000 Ontarians have roots in India and maintain close ties to Indian culture. Toronto itself is home to Filmi, a popular South Asian film festival; and boasts a booming Little India neighborhood on Gerrard Street.