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Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was shot in Spain

Cinema plays a decisive role in building the desire to travel to visually appealing destinations that are reflected in its reels. There are innumerable examples of films that have converted destinations into travel hot spots. Film tourism is about to establish itself as a powerful destination marketing tool on one hand and as a niche tourism product on the other hand (e g film location products). Regions that have already recognised the power of films for tourism and have encashed on it, a few which include: Great Britain, Australia (the film Australia), New Zealand (Lord of the Rings and others), regions in the US, Tyrol in Austria, the city film of Salzburg (The Sound of Music) and Scotland (Braveheart, Rob Roy, etc) amongst others.

It is a well known fact or rather an interesting case study of what film director and producer Yash Chopra did Switzerland as a destination for Indians. Since the 80s to the present, it is probably still a first choice as a honeymoon destination. Today, he apparently receives a red carpet welcome into the country for being instrumental in bringing in foreign exchange into the Alpine region. He hit bulls eye and this strategy has been followed by a host of tourism boards.

Eye on India outbound

From Krissh in Singapore, to Don in Malaysia, Dostana in Miami, Gangster in Korea to that of both the South Indian, Bengali and other regional film industries, it is an established trend to shoot in international locales.

Kiran Shantaram

The small screen and television audience is also readily accepting serials shot abroad. Kaho Na Pyaar Hai made in 2000, became a hit and Tourism New Zealand saw an unprecedented wave of Indian tourists making them expand their immigration counter area from 500 square feet to 5,000 square feet. Kiran V Shantaram, producer, director and chairman, V Shantaram Foundation says, “International destinations have gone all out to capture the attention of the Indian film fraternity. From user friendly rules and procedures to a hassle-free functioning method, shooting abroad is far more pleasant than in India. Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, etc, have provided attractive packages.”

Arturo Ortiz

Films are indeed a fantastic vehicle to promote a destination. One, they are free advertising for the destination; two, they are not accompanied by the hard-sell factor of official media campaigns; three, they reach a wide target audience and four, they address deep, intrinsic feelings and connect them with a real place. In terms of promotion value, for around 40 per cent of potential international visitors to the UK, the destination image is influenced by films. For visitation, there has been an increase of around four to six per cent of film-induced visitors who actually visit specific film locations in the UK. Film tourism is still neglected by many destination marketers despite the fact that media-induced tourism is a growing trend.

Spanish flamenco

Cocktail had UK and South Africa locales

One of the latest success stories that got the concept right was Spain Tourism and the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. A story woven seamlessly around a destination and ‘Hola’ it got what it wanted, more tourists wanting to see very inch of Spain and of course the La Tomatina festival. Speaking to Express TravelWorld in an interview in October 2011, Joan Mesquida Ferrando, deputy minister of tourism, Spain, said, “While in 2010 as many as 70,000 Indians visited Spain, the first half of this year saw 53,000 arrivals – an increase that is on no small measures attributed to the success of the blockbuster ‘Zindagi Na Milagi Dobara’, which managed to capture the true spirit of Spain and showcased it before the Indian audience. Spain is being promoted in India as a year-round destination, and according to Arturo Ortiz, director, Tourism Office of Spain, Mumbai, they are expecting a 40 per cent year-on-year growth in tourist arrivals from India for the next five to seven years. Ferrando further pointed out that an important part of the marketing strategy will be movie partnerships and the Indian film industry will be given priority. According to Ortiz, “Spain Film Commission has been set up to work together with all regional and local film commissions. Since the release of the movie ‘Zindagi Na Milagi Dobara’, there has also been an increase in fly and drive segment.”

Tiger tails

Simon Gregory

‘Ek Tha Tiger’ was yet another film that displayed interesting elements of Ireland and Tourism Ireland is hopeful that this movie will do a lot for its tourism sector from India. Expressing his views, Simon Gregory, director- International Markets, Tourism Ireland says, “ This is the first time that a Bollywood movie has been shot in Ireland – in Dublin and Trinity College. We are excited and hopeful that it will do a lot for Tourism Ireland in India. That it will bring Ireland to a big audience in India. We have been working in India for a long time but Bollywood can create a great impact. We are here with the Irish Film Board who are meeting many production companies. We are hoping we have demonstrated through this film what a good location Ireland is for filming. We also offer very attractive tax incentives and are flexible.” He further added that the Film Board of Ireland has been working in India for eight years. They facilitate and provide the mechanics and connect with local production companies that help in scouting locations and sourcing talent. There is a tax incentive of 28 per cent of all expenditure that takes place in Ireland there. This special rebate is given in advance, which helps the film producer to maintain good cash flow. The sales tax is also waived. The other benefits add up to the cost of shoot in Ireland being reduced by almost 47 per cent. Tourism Ireland is launching a big media campaign – online and television, linked with Ek Tha Tiger.

Cocktail culture

Hanneli Slabber

Hanneli Slabber, country head, South Africa Tourism India, too has faith in the film medium for tourism promotion. She says, “Films are a great way to reach mass audiences and create awareness about the destination. The best thing is that it is not a flat promotion. Travellers can see the experiences that a destination has to offer. South Africa has been lucky in this respect, especially Cape Town. The recent Hindi film Cocktail has given South Africa tourism a great boost. Not only have we seen an increase in leisure travellers, we have actually had MICE groups come and ask for the Cocktail itinerary. Films and television are very big consumer influencers in India. The good thing about Cocktail was that the destination was not a prop but it had a role in the film, it was a part of the story.” Tourism New Zealand too has a story to narrate. Mischa Mannix-Opie, regional manager South and South East Asia, Tourism New Zealand, adds that the film The Hobbit is slated to launch in November this year and the world premiere will be held in Wellington. “This is will be a big moment for us as New Zealand’s popularity shot up after the Lord of the Rings films released. We have had so many travellers curious to know where the film was shot. Some time closer to the release of the film we will be planning a campaign with the release of the latest film,” she says.

Picturing India

Mischa Mannix-Opie

It is a well established fact that international tourism boards have worked with the film fraternity to set foot in their region and shoot films and have in turn provided them with tax rebates, sops, support, single window clearance and at times even paid the producer to shoot films in the region. Cut to India and the picture may not be all that perfect. India is blessed with one of the world’s most diverse topography, comprising of breathtaking landscapes and rich culture, heritage and art, has not even looked at this potential. Each state has a plethora of diverse attractions and can easily catapult India as a top destination for film shoots both for the domestic and international market. Ideally, India should have done what the NTOs have been doing, using Bollywood as a tool to promote the country domestically and internationally. Princess Padmaja Kumari Mewar, joint MD, HRH Group of Hotels, says, “Tourism and Bollywood have a relationship.” It was felt that if a mix of cricket and Bollywood could happen through IPL, why not for tourism and Bollywood.

Prakash Jha

Though the trend is picking up to shoot films on international soil, there is a section of society that has only shot films in India. Noted film maker Prakash Jha has never shot any of his films abroad and probably does not even feel the need to do so. He comes from a school of thought that believes in making hardcore Indian based thematic films and does not find it appealing to shoot such films in an international set up as the ambiance does not gel well with the concept. Jha has shot most of his films in Satara district of Maharashtra and was probably one of the first film makers who set base there. Today the region is established as a film shooting zone.

Madhur Bhandarkar

After Satara, Jha discovered Madhya Pradesh and especially the city of Bhopal. He found the place, people and temperament of the place suitable to his plots and films and is all praise both for the government as well the locals of the place. He says rather candidly, “I work in a very structured and systematic fashion and we start the ground work for months before starting to shoot. My team started doing the ground work on the film Rajneeti easily a year in advance. I firmly believe that it is crucial to work with the local population and along with their support. One has to be true to them. For Rajneeti my team travelled across Madhya Pradesh to get the people in place, train them for months together for their role. We have actually conducted acting workshops for them during the film and in return the support given by the locals was tremendous.” He proudly adds, his films have always been completely shot few days before the stipulated time frame even though he works with a large number of people across genre. Madhya Pradesh government also provides Jha with single window clearance for his work and the chief minister also appoints a special secretary for the project. Jha is also playing to set a unit which is in lines of a film city in the state.


Madhur Bhandarkar adds, “If you have seen all my films then you would know that most of them have been shot very much in India and especially Mumbai. And every time I have shot out of the country, which is rare, I arrange everything on my own.” His upcoming film, ‘Heroine’ has also been shot in Mumbai except for a few scenes in Bangkok.

Mukesh Bhatt

In the past things were better as Patnitop in Kashmir had become a major honeymooner’s resort due to the love songs picturised in the cinema of the 60s and 70s and remained so till the terror of early 90s bared its fangs. People from all over India used to throng to Mumbai and head to Marine Drive and Chowpatty, which symbolised Mumbai in films. But the situation did change over the years. Though films are being shot in various parts of the country, filmmakers feel that shooting in India is a very difficult process. Some have confessed that state tourism boards and the government in India barring a few are extremely rigid and unreasonable with permits and facilities when shooting in Indian regions. There is no single window clearance for the innumerable permits and other criteria that one has to get into place before starting work. Mukesh Bhatt, managing director, Vishesh Films says, “It is a sad affair when it comes to shooting in India, especially in Mumbai. Bureaucracy, corruption and basically the entire system, is a nightmare for producers. Shooting abroad is comparatively economical and the product on offer is much more superior, such as beautiful streets, and clean and picture perfect locales as compared to the unclean streets of Mumbai. An international destination with their attractive packages is a dream for Indian film makers.”

What NTOs offer Indian film makers

  • Single window clearance for all permits and rules for shooting
  • Exclusive policy designed specifically for Indian film producers
  • Free locations for shoots, concessions at sites
  • State-of-the-art equipment and technical support provided free or at a highly subsidised rate
  • Free airfare and accommodation
  • Waiver of visa fees
  • Support from airlines in terms of baggage allowance

According to Shantaram, it is the high number of permits which one requires from various agencies for a film shoot that is painful. He says, “To shoot in a city like Mumbai, for example the Gateway of India, one needs to have permits from the following authorities: ASI (Archaeological Survey of India), Navy, Police, the local police station (Colaba), MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation), BMC (Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation), RTO (Regional Transport Office), Traffic Police and host of others. Co-ordinating with all the authorities and the process of getting these permits can be lengthy and highly de-motivating.” Bhatt goes a step further and totally blames the system for its bureaucracy, red tapism and corrupt practices. He says, “It is extremely frustrating to film in India especially in Maharashtra and Mumbai. We receive zero support from the authorities and over and above that one has to part with extra money to receive the permits, which hikes up the cost of production. Unfriendly infrastructure, badly maintained locations also add up to the agony. It is high time we take a serious call on the system and have a straight and user friendly system in place, like it is prevalent internationally.” Bhandarkar also agrees, “It is not always a cake walk. For instance, to shoot in Delhi there is no single channelled system where one can get all the permissions and suitable requirements for shooting. It is important for every possible shooting locale to have one body which gets all the process done, instead of running in ten different directions.”

Madhya Pradesh was part of Rajneeti

Echoing a similar thought is filmmaker Ashok Pandit. He says, “The beauty of Kashmir is unmatched and used to be the most sought after destination for film shooting through the 60s and right till the time the state was rocked with insurgency problem. When the conditions were right, the destination was overpriced, but then filmmakers had to succumb to the demands. Today the destination needs to make serious efforts to rope in filmmakers. While the Kashmir government has invited film producers to shoot in the region, they have not supported the move with providing the necessary confidence. I am extremely keen on shooting my next film there as the script requires a Kashmir background, and I am hoping for complete support from the authorities.” Sharing her experience, Deepti Bhatnagar, actor and television presenter, says, “When I approach foreign tourism board regarding my concept for shows, I am invited and given full support. Here, getting permission is very difficult. For Italy, I received 40 days of free shooting as they recognise the power of Indian cinema as a strong motivator for tourism.” Shooting in India has its own set of woes to be dealt with from bureaucratic hurdles to that of overall expense factor. Though India has the most varied of natural locations, forts, and palaces, the logistics in some locations are not film friendly.“Depends on where you are shooting, how long are you shooting and what are the changes that have had to be made from the daily life of that location for your shooting. And this is applicable world over. At least shooting in India reduced one problem, and that is the language barrier, which one might face in outdoor locations,” says Bhandarkar.

Waking up to reality

Delhi’s namesake film showcased Old Delhi

There are few states in India that have awakened to the reality that films are a major influence on the Indian traveller’s choice of destination. Within Rajasthan, a few Hollywood and Bollywood films are known to have been shot because of its heritage offerings. Apart from the palaces, temples, museums, forts and havelis, the forests of Ranthambore, Bharatpur, Ramgarh and the Desert National Park in Jaisalmer have also been popular. According to a senior member from Rajasthan tourism, for shoots in Rajasthan, films are now exempt from entertainment tax, to the extent of 50 per cent for a period of one year subject to the condition that the film does not have anything which is against communal harmony and national integration, and that the film doesn’t have any objectionable scenes in it. The producer of the films required to submit, in advance, copies of the shooting schedule to the director, art and culture and the deputy secretary, finance (tax) Department, Government of Rajasthan. Also, the minimum 50 per cent of the film time needs to be shot in the state of Rajasthan and be verified by a committee comprising the director, art and culture, the director, public relations and the deputy secretary, finance (tax) department.

India can adopt the thought process of the NTOs, marketing the country through the medium of cinema in conjunction with the highly successful Incredible India campaign. This strategy would not only work wonders in providing the country much needed exposure, but also help increase the visitor numbers. Suresh Chablani, CEO, Rose Travels, which has been the official travel agency for a host of film producers and banners, opines that Bollywood and the regional cinema can be a vital tool in building brand India and destination marketing to boost tourism. “Today while the world is looking at India, it is the best time for India tourism and the state tourism boards to realise that films can be highly instrumental in showcasing the potential of the country to the world. We too have good locations and facilities like Ramoji Film City, for international film makers to come here and shoot,” states Chablani. He further adds, “It is also a great business avenue for the trade as on an average a film unit comprises of 50 people depending on where the shoot is taking place. On an average there are about 24 films which are shot per year, if not more, and this can be a good mode of business. The increase in tourist traffic, both international and domestic, once destinations are popularised by films will also be a big boost of revenue for the trade.”

The film Kahaani had Kolkata as the backdrop with a focus on Durga Puja

In an attempt to capitalise on the tourism boom caused by cinema, Centre for Media & Entertainment Studies (CMES) in the past had organised a cinematic conclave to promote Chandigarh and the northern states of Punjab and Haryana as ideal destinations for film shoots in 2006. Attended by stalwarts of the film industry, the conclave sought to ignite the imagination of the Mumbai film and television industry in opting to shoot in these regions and provide an impetus to cinematic tourism. A host of measures were announced which included setting up of an office in north India providing a single window clearance for film projects, access and information on the web so that production houses in Mumbai can initiate and get clearances processed online, joint promotions by Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in the form of consolidated cinematic tourism packages, etc.

According to sources from Uttar Pradesh Tourism, the film policy of the state called ‘Film Bandhu’ provides a rebate of 40 per cent in the tariff of government tourist bungalows and 25 per cent discount on Public Works Department (PWD) cottages. Free security arrangements, entertainment tax exemptions or films, which are shot 75 per cent or more in UP and nominal charge for using the air strip for shooting are some of the other incentives offered by the film policy. Maharashtra also set up subsidies four months ago but only for Marathi films shot in Maharashtra. For a 35 mm cinemascope colour Dolby Digital Sound (DDS), the Maharashtra government gives 30 lakhs to the producer, while 25 lakhs are offered for non-DDS films.

Jammu & Kashmir Tourism has also announced special benefits for shooting in the state and Rajasthan is yet another state, which has a film tourism policy in place. Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC) initiative on single window coordination approach which will offer producers a value proposition with comprehensive and customised packages has also been announced. Though states have their policies in place, how effective and streamlined they are is yet to be seen. Pandit says, “All these policies are there, but they seem to be workable only on paper. We want policies that are real and completely free from bureaucratic hassles.”

Experiential film tourism


Ramoji Film City that has been a major tourist hub in Hyderabad is now emerging as a unique destination for organising large scale corporate events and grand destination weddings, attracting clientele from across India and overseas. According to Vijayeswari, managing director, Dolphin Group of Hotels, in recent times Ramoji Film City has become a much sought-after destination for high-end weddings and MICE events. The many attractions and ambiance of the campus, along with the focused expertise of organising innovative thematic events offer a one-of-a-kind experience, to both corporate and wedding clientele who return again and again. Today Ramoji Film City has created a niche as a grand thematic wedding destination for high networth personalities. The wedding clientele is not just from India but also Kathmandu, Dubai, Japan and the US.

Manoj Gursahani

“We did not actually market ourselves as a wedding destination, it was discovered and explored. Today we offer the complete wedding experience from pre-wedding events, the main event and post wedding celebrations with a thematic experience and support functions,” says Vijayeswari. The USP is film themed weddings. There are different events with tailor-made themes like ‘Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham’ and `Kaho na Pyar Hai’. Vijayeswari points out that the families have to just come, relax and enjoy. “We teach them choreography also. Our specialist team of events will conceptualise themes and execute the different functions. A strong manpower from diverse functional backgrounds works in tandem while executing the events. With a state-of-the-art communication setup, strong inhouse set making department, extensive props and costumes that can handle any theme. Film-making infrastructure, event conception and execution is a natural forte here.”

Bollywood Tourism has started film based tours, an exclusive product aimed at the inbound travel businessin India. Harish Kale, director, Bollywood Tourism informs, “We have tied up with a number of partners within the Indian film industry to take this project forward.” The tie-ups include Big ND Studios in Karjat (an alliance between Reliance and art director Nitin Desai), Balaji Films, B&D (a company owned by make-up artist Bharat and hair stylist Doriss), Whistling Woods Film and Animation Institute, Anupam Kher’s Actor Prepares and Jitu Savlani Photography. According to Kale, the tour is charted in two formats – half day at US$ 125 and full day at US$150. The group has to be a minimum of two people and a net rate is offered for a group of more than 15. “The full day tour consists of an excursion to Karjat on the sets of Big ND Studios, post which, on the return, is a visit to the Balaji Telefilms sets in Powai, followed by a workshop on acting at Anupam Kher’s Actors Prepare, make-up, hairstyle and portfolio creation,” informs Manoj Gursahani, chairman, Bollywood Tourism. The package would include movie making with a film crew on sets, fashion show, portfolio creation and song and dance programme, amongst others. He also informed that Bollywood Tourism is also open to special deals for corporate and MICE events. “We customise tours according to the needs specified by the group.” However, he clarifies that at no point does Bollywood Tourism promise glimpses of Indian film actors and personalities, as it depends on whether there is a shoot fixed on the sets. He says that previous attempts at promoting Bollywood as an intrinsic part of tourism in Mumbai hadn’t worked because of the lack of proper alliances. India has tremendous potential to project and position itself as a world class destination for filming. All it needs is some political will and people’s power to drive the change.

(With inputs from Sudipta Dev and Sayoni Bhaduri)