India is a land of passions – where cricket is a religion, Bollywood is a way of life and Indian cuisine is a culinary delight that binds communities. Among these, the passion for Hindi cinema or Bollywood has had a wide and profound influence on our sartorial choices, music and travel decisions. Bollywood, with its captivating visuals, has become an unofficial guide for travellers, both first-time and evolved.
The journey of Bollywood’s influence on tourism began decades ago. In the early years, Indian films were often confined to studio sets or filmed in the bustling streets of Mumbai. However, gradually after the 60s, a transformation began.
Filmmakers ventured beyond Mumbai’s borders, exploring the rest of India’s landscapes. Kashmir became a cinematic magnet, with movies like Kabhi Kabhi, Karma, and Silsila immortalising its beauty. Hill stations like Darjeeling and Ooty witnessed Bollywood magic too with movies like Karz elegantly capturing Ooty’s serene landscapes.
In recent years, films like Jab We Met and Highway have painted Himachal Pradesh in all its glory, while Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani captured the essence of Manali and Udaipur. Another iconic movie that catapulted the popularity of an Indian destination is 3 Idiots. The ending of the movie was shot in Ladakh, but it marked the beginning of mass tourism for the region. On the other hand, the sun-kissed beaches of Goa as depicted in Dil Chahta Hai, have inspired countless groups of friends to embark on road trips. More recently, movies like Brahmastra have cast a spotlight on the spiritual city of Varanasi, and Bhediya has invited the audience to explore the mystical landscapes of Arunachal Pradesh.
There have also been movies like Kahaani, Delhi-6, and Kai Po Che, which have brilliantly showcased captivating facets of cities like Kolkata, Delhi, and Ahmedabad. These movies used the locations to play a crucial role, effortlessly turning the cities into characters within the narrative. Bollywood has also crossed the borders and travelled beyond India in many films. In the early 90s, Mauritius was a popular destination for several song and dance sequences. A historic turning point arrived when the late Yash Chopra, introduced Indian audiences to the European destination, Switzerland, through films like Chandni, Darr, and the iconic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ).
In fact, after the success of DDLJ, Switzerland saw an increase in outbound travel from India by 30%. Spain and New Zealand were other destinations that enjoyed a similar influx of Indian tourists after the films Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai were shot there respectively.
If Switzerland had Yash Chopra, the Czech Republic and Hungary had Imtiaz Ali. His movies Rockstar and Jab Harry Met Sejal popularised these central European destinations. Witnessing the impact of Bollywood on these countries, newer destinations like Israel, and Iceland also jumped on the bandwagon and invited Bollywood on their soil.
Dil Dhadakne Do had a similar impact on travel and tourism. The movie’s portrayal of an affluent family navigating their internal family dynamics during a Mediterranean cruise put cruise tourism on the radar for Indians. Travel agencies saw a surge in cruise vacation inquiries after the film’s June 2015 release.
While Indian filmmakers did their job of promoting destinations through films, tourism boards also played their part in marketing and attracting Indians to their destinations. At the restaurant in Mount Titlis, Switzerland, one can enjoy hot Pav Bhaji in the cold weather after clicking photos with cut-outs of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol.
Dubai is yet another destination that leads the way in marketing places wherever Bollywood has filmed in its locations. From creating theme parks around Bollywood to designing Bollywood-themed hotel rooms, Dubai loves to show its love for Bollywood.
The influx of tourists to film locations has significantly benefited local businesses as well, including hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops, thus contributing to local economies.
To further promote film tourism, governments have initiated partnerships with the film industry, offering tax rebates and various discounts to Indian filmmakers. These incentives encourage more film productions to explore the destination’s landscapes, ultimately attracting more tourists.
As more Indians are becoming travel-hungry, the cinematic magic of Hindi films will continue to inspire wanderlust and encourage them to embark on journeys to newer destinations. And hopefully, it is just a matter of time before Hindi becomes part of the optional languages available on audio guides across the world.
The author is Head of Marketing & Communications, Hansa Research.
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