Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Fri October 23 2015

Destinations Turn to Bollywood To Draw Indian Travelers

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | October 23, 2015

Destinations Turn to Bollywood To Draw Indian Travelers

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Indian travelers are looking abroad more and more often. Along with China, India is one of the world’s biggest untapped tourism markets. For a long time, when people used “tourism” and “India” in the same sentence, they were talking about getting more foreign travelers to come to India. These days, they are most likely discussing how to get more Indian tourists to travel abroad to their country.

Like in other places with surging middle- and upper-class populations, international travel is a growing trend in India. As jet setters from the Subcontinent start to fill up their passport pages, countries are scrambling to appear more attractive to the people who make up this growing pool of potential tourists.

English-speaking countries have the edge

This could be a huge boon, especially for Anglophone countries. Most Indians in the aforementioned classes are completely fluent in English. England, Australia and New Zealand are high on their to-visit lists because they won’t have to deal with a language barrier.

Countries like New Zealand, which relies heavily on tourism, are pulling out all the stops to advertise in India. One of the newest travel promotion trends involves hiring Bollywood stars to travel in a country and to make videos and social posts about their experiences.

New Zealand brings in Bollywood stars to promote tourism

Recently, thirty-something Bollywood A-lister Sidharth Malhotra signed on to be New Zealand Tourism's “ambassador for India.”  By doing this, New Zealand is tapping into the star’s huge social media following. Malhotra has 2.4 million Twitter followers and half-a-million Instagram followers. He “documented” a recent trip to New Zealand, with photos of the scenery and pics of himself holding an All-Blacks rugby jersey each garnering tens of thousands of likes.

The star was not just invited to Tweet. He filmed a promotional video that featured the country’s famous scenery and adventure-sports opportunities.

Celebrities are great for the tourism industry

This isn’t the first time that New Zealand has tried to use celebrities to tap into up-and-coming tourism markets. Tourism NZ has also worked with Yao Chen, an actress who is sometimes referred to as China’s Angelina Jolie. Chen reportedly has more than 70 million followers on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter. She actually decided to get married in Queenstown, New Zealand in 2012, giving the adventure-sports hub a huge publicity boost.

The UK, one of the destinations of choice for Indians because of their country’s status as a member of the Commonwealth, also regularly enlists Bollywood elites. For example, silver-screen heartthrobs Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt recently showed up at a Tourism in Great Britain event in Mumbai. Since the entertainment media follows the every move of Bollywood’s most famous figures, even if they show up for only a few minutes, the event or tourism promo gets a huge amount of free publicity.

Bollywood is still a draw for tourism inside of India

Bollywood is being used to introduce India’s would-be travelers to other parts of the world, but the cinema scene is still drawing foreign visitors into India. There are tours in Mumbai that take sightseers to filming locations and popular celeb haunts. You may even get lucky when hanging out in a tourist hotspot and be asked to work as an extra in a movie.   

As the Indian market continues to grow, you can expect more and more countries to follow New Zealand’s lead and get Bollywood’s most famous faces to help promote their best destinations.


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