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Bollywood celebrities for international tourism campaigns: A hit or a miss?

Greatly influenced by Bollywood, Indians are travelling abroad like never before. And taking the cue, international tourism boards are roping in Indian celebrities to make the most of the travel-crazy Indians

The number of Indian tourists going to Spain jumped by 40% in 2011 after the country and its famous La Tomatina festival was featured in the popular Hindi movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Bollywood director the Late Yash Chopra popularised Switzerland so much through his movies that the country named a train after him and Croatia, a tiny country in Europe, became the favourite tourism destination for India’s rich after film director Imtiaz Ali shot Tamasha there.

Bollywood and overseas scenic destinations always go hand in hand.

Today, taking a cue, international tourism boards are using Bollywood to woo tourists to their soil. Countries such as Dubai and Fiji have understood the economics of B-town and roped in celebrities to draw tourists. In the last few years, international tourism boards such as Dubai promoted by Shah Rukh Khan, Switzerland promoted by Ranveer Singh and New Zealand promoted by Siddharth Malhotra have been influencing the social media feeds of these Bollywood top-shots to endorse destinations, cuisines and fun activities.

According to KPMG-FICCI report on travel and tourism, there has been a rising participation of millennial travellers in terms of numbers and expenditure, with 34% millennials spending Rs 6,000 per night or more in the past year as compared to 22% of those aged above 55.

India is currently Australia’s fastest growing market for arrivals and spends, achieving a fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth. The Australian Tourism board has appointed Parineeti Chopra as the brand ambassador for its tourism campaign.

Commenting on its new campaign, Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager, Australia Tourism, said, “If you see the current trend today, young Indians are traveling at a very young age. So, we wanted to appoint someone who resonates with that audience, and Parineeti Chopra with almost 34 million followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter was the perfect fit. We tried to incorporate her undiscovered experience of Australia as a part of our campaign.”

Kashikar explains that brand ambassador alone can’t drive tourists to the country. “We believe that having Parineeti Chopra, who is leading the campaign, along with aviation access, visa policy and people to people links, trade and investment relations together help in achieving the growth in tourism.”

Anupama Ramaswamy

From a creative perspective, Anupama Ramaswamy, National Creative Director, Dentsu Impact, explains the advantage around roping in popular B-town actors in tourism campaigns. “India is a Bollywood-crazy country. People follow their favourite celebrities religiously. Whatever they wear, eat and go becomes a trend. The tourism boards are channelling this in an intelligent way. Instead of just showing beautiful places, they are conveying that fellows from your country are coming here, what is stopping you.”

Ranveer Singh, ambassador of Switzerland Tourism, bombarded his Instagram with a bunch of photos and Instagram stories during his stay in Switzerland. His followers chronicled his everyday adventure through his social media handles. According to figures released by Switzerland's Federal Office of Statistics, in August 2018, the country became a more popular destination with Asian tourists, especially visitors from India and China. Government figures show an increase of 10% in overnight stays of Indian tourists.

Ambi Parameswaran

Ambi Parameswaran, Brand Strategist and Founder, Brand-Building, said, “International tourist destinations have discovered the largest numbers of tourists are going to come from two countries, India and China. In India, they know that celebrities are aped and imitated by the rich and the not so rich. Switzerland discovered the magic more than a decade ago. They even awarded Yash Chopra for making Switzerland a tourist destination for Indians through his movies. No wonder they are now adopting stars like Ranveer Singh.”

“Just as big-budget movies made the cut in the past, now they are using modern social media handles to spread the word. We can expect this to increase,” he added.

Vijay Subramaniam, Founding Partner and Co-CEO, Kwan Entertainment, thinks digital media is playing a big role in the tourism industry. “In the case of tourism, it is definitely playing a big role. If your brand ambassador is endorsing a local place, using that holiday, it will definitely add value and is a natural way of connecting. Travel, food and passion are the most popular topics on social media. The digital media is more organic in case of travel and tourism.”

“Appointing a Bollywood celebrity as a brand ambassador is cost-effective. They will do all 100% of the work, which otherwise will be invested in marketing. India is strongly dependent on celebrity marketing; the moment you add a celebrity face to a tourism campaign, it automatically has reach, penetration and recall.”

Here are some of the popular campaigns:

Australia Tourism:

Fiji Tourism:

Switzerland Tourism:

New Zealand Tourism:

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