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How Bollywood Has Become A Powerful Medium For Tourism Promotion

There is no doubt that Bollywood has become a rich cultural resource and the tourism sector is a direct beneficiary of its clout

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It’s often said that there are two big religions in India, Bollywood and cricket. A perfect metaphor that captures the clout of the Indian film industry.

It all started way back during the 50s when every big-budget movie was shot in Kashmir. Thanks to the part played by Bollywood filmmakers of that era and thereafter, Kashmir over time became one of the most preferred destinations for filming across the world.

From the unforgettable journey of two friends trying to find their third “idiot” leading them to the beautiful Pangong lake in Ladakh, in the Amir Khan starrer 3 Idiots (2009) to the royal forts of Rajasthan featured in iconic numbers like Jodha Akbar (2008), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Border (1997), and Goliyon ki Rasleela - Ramleela (2013), the number of tourists visiting these places have almost grown to more than double after the release of these movies. 

Mind you there is a place called Betaab Valley in Kashmir’s Pahalgam, named after the iconic 80s movie by the same name. And there are many other places that trace their story to the big Bollywood discovery. Although this has been going on for decades, it is only in the last few years that the concept has been formalised and destinations have started working with large production houses to ensure they are featured in the big projects and often offer fiscal incentives to be featured in films.

Bollywood films often push us to explore a new country – or in some cases, help us know our own country better. Take the small town of Chanderi in central India’s Madhya Pradesh. While known for its historical significance as well as a hub for sari makers and handloom weavers, it wasn’t really considered to be much of anything until two major films – social comedy Sui Dhaaga and horror-comedy Stree – were based here. Photos of top Bollywood stars shopping in the area were the best endorsement the weavers of Chanderi could have asked for.

And Bollywood’s clout is not just a national narrative. Today, a bronze statue of filmmaker Yash Chopra stands in the Kursaal Gardens, in the central Swiss town of Interlaken. Bollywood is big business here, despite being 7,000 kilometres from Mumbai.

In 2011, filmmaker Zoya Akhtar made Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD), a film about three school friends who live it up in Spain during a bachelor party. The movie ended up being the most effective commercial for Spanish tourism imaginable. For the first time in a Bollywood film, we got glimpses of the town of Buñol, Pamplona’s San Fermín bull running festival and the beaches of Costa Brava.

Speaking about the unique aspects of Indian cinema, noted filmmaker Faruk Kabir says, “Everything about Indian cinema is unique. Great minds and souls over the years have filmed the fame of our nation through our movies. Indian cinema is and pretty much has been the face of India abroad and has always captured popular imagination, fashion, aspirations within the nation.”

 Films have for long been a powerful tool for tourism promotion as the scenic locales used in big budget films almost always have a positive impact on tourism and end up seeing a significant boost in tourist arrivals soon after the films’ release.  

Over the years, Bollywood has contributed immensely to promote tourism in India and even abroad. Bollywood has unintentionally and effortlessly portrayed some of the most popular tourist destinations in India on the screens. Look at markets like Dubai and Europe, Bollywood has played its part in making such destinations more attractive to Indian tourists. There is no doubt that the biggest film industry in the world has contributed to the tourism industry by shooting at some of the finest and vivacious destinations of India.

According to a report, film tourism has the scope of generating US$ 5 billion by 2022 in India as there is potential for up to two million film tourists to visit different parts of the country by the end of 2022.

“If tourists know and they can identify the location in the movie then definitely they prefer to visit that place. Shooting a film at any location surely increases its popularity. There is a major impact, we saw that before 3 idiots released, not many people knew about Ladakh but since then it has become really popular among tourists,” says Dharmendra Kumar Verma, Manager, Kumar Taj Mahal Tour, an Agra-based tour and travel company.

There is no doubt that Bollywood has become a rich cultural resource and the tourism sector is a direct beneficiary of its clout.

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bollywood tourism Magazine 22 Oct 2022