Switzerland bets on Bollywood to lure Indian tourists

Switzerland is betting on Bollywood to lure more Indian tourists who are drawn by its picturesque locales that form the backdrop of many a blockbuster.

"We plan to have more and more Hindi movies shot in Switzerland and, in turn, showcase and sell the magnificent holiday destinations that we have there," said Federico Sommaruga, director (emerging markets) of Switzerland Tourism.
"The backgrounds that are used in films become dream locations for a large number of Indians. Bollywood provides the ideal link between the Indian consumer and any destination for tourism promotion," Sommaruga told IANS in an interview.

Swiss tourism officials say a majority of Indian travellers come to their country to see for themselves the snowy mountain peaks, scenic resorts and enchanting landscapes that have featured in many Bollywood hits.

"We are striving to strengthen this link to double the number of Indians visiting Switzerland in the next three to four years," said Sommaruga, who is here to promote his country as a tourist destination.

Switzerland received over 75,000 Indian tourists in 2004, a growth of six percent over the previous year. In the current year, the number of visitors is likely to swell by nearly 10 percent.

Besides luring travellers, Indian movie making also brings big business to Switzerland. On an average, 25 Bollywood movies are shot in the picturesque backdrops in that country every year.

Industry experts say one of the main reasons behind Bollywood moving to Switzerland was the violence plaguing Jammu and Kashmir since the late 1980s.

The snow-capped locales of Jammu and Kashmir, once used in most Hindi films as a backdrop for blossoming love, have been replaced with the natural choice - romantic Switzerland.

An organisation called Film Location Switzerland has been set up to help filmmakers find the perfect locations, get permission from local authorities for shooting and obtain professional filming equipment.

Switzerland was first used as a location by Indian filmmakers in the 1960s, when Raj Kapoor and Shakti Samanta went there to shoot Sangam and An Evening in Paris respectively.

In 2002, leading Bollywood director and producer Yash Chopra was conferred the Swiss Filmfare Award by the Switzerland government for his role in promoting the country as a preferred location.

Several recent super-hits including Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kabhi Khushi Khabhi Gham and Mujhse Dosti Karonge were extensively shot in Switzerland.

Other major markets for Switzerland tourism, which contributes eight percent to the national gross domestic product, include Russia, the Gulf and South Korea, said Sommaruga.

"In the coming years, we will see the growth coming mainly from China and India. With its vast middle class population and increasing disposable incomes, India holds great potential for us," he said.

Sommaruga said the Indian government's open sky policy for airlines would boost the arrivals of Indian travellers in Switzerland.

According to the official, India is the second largest market for the country located in the heart of Europe. It receives the maximum number of tourists from China.

Courtsey: IANS