DENTON (UNT), Texas — When U.S. News & World Report’s travel website recently ranked the top 15 honeymoon destinations in Europe, the list included many sunny islands — the Greek islands of Corfu, Crete and Santorini and Italy’s Sicily; coastal cities such as Cannes and Nice in France; and Italy’s Tuscany region.
Switzerland wasn’t a possibility for a romantic honeymoon. But thanks to the influence of the Hindi-language film industry known as Bollywood, the nation would be at the top of the list if a magazine in India had ranked the destinations, says a team of University of North Texas researchers in the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism.
“Bollywood movies are often shot in Switzerland for the mountains and snow that doesn’t exist in most of India, and Indian citizens want to go there and recreate the romantic scenes from the movies,” said Bharath Josiam, UNT professor of hospitality and tourism management.
Josiam and Daniel Spears, associate professor of hospitality and tourism, joined with Tammy Kinley, chair of the UNT Department of Merchandising and Digital Retail and Sanjukta Pookulangara, assistant professor of merchandising and digital retail, to determine Bollywood’s influence on travel. With the assistance of Kirti Dutta, assistant professor of marketing at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavans Usha & Lakshmi Mittal Institute of Management in New Delhi, the professors surveyed 670 residents of New Delhi about travel destinations.
Although other studies have documented Hollywood’s influence on tourist destinations, this is the first study that has documented the influence of Bollywood on international tourism by Indian citizens, Josiam said.
Austria, he said, is still attracting tourists thanks to “The Sound of Music,” and, more recently, the “Harry Potter” and “Da Vinci Code” movies drew tourists to the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, and the “Lord of the Rings” movies resulted in more tourism to New Zealand, where the movies were filmed.
Approximately 2.6 billion tickets are sold per year for Hollywood movies, giving these filming locations a huge audience. Bollywood, however, sells approximately 3.6 billion in tickets per year, and produces more than 1,000 movies every year — hundreds more than Hollywood.
All of the participants in the Indian citizens’ travel survey were upper middle class with the means and ability to travel outside of India. Nearly 50 percent reported traveling abroad in the past — a big change from 30 years ago, Josiam said.
Josiam, a native of India, noted that, until the liberalization of the Indian economy in the late 1980s, Bollywood “was the dream world” that presented beautiful scenery from European countries that few Indian citizens could visit.
“There was very little foreign exchange available for international travel, even for rich Indians,” he said.
The growth of the Indian economy and foreign exchange earnings led to more citizens moving into the middle class, and more becoming millionaires and billionaires, he said. Today, 200 million Indian citizens are considered middle class and are traveling abroad in large numbers, Josiam said.
The survey respondents were presented with a list of European nations and were asked to rate each nation’s attributes, such as its shopping, recreation, scenery, cultural sites and romantic atmosphere. The ratings were averaged to determine the top five and bottom five travel destinations.
Switzerland topped the list of the most popular destinations, and was rated the most romantic nation by more than three-fourths of the respondents.
Spain, which never made a top travel destination list for Indian citizens in the past, was rated third among the top five. Josiam points to a recent Bollywood film that is set in the nation with nearly one-fourth of the survey participants saying the movie made them want to visit Spain. Spain was also highly rated for recreation, thanks to the movie’s scenes of Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls and the Tomatina Festival in Bunol.
•Although Paris has been heralded as one of the most romantic cities in the world, France was ranked by Indian citizens as less romantic than both Switzerland and Italy, but was the highest ranked for relaxation.
•Despite being included in the list of the five least popular destinations, Greece was the second-highest ranked country as a destination for cultural sites.
•The United Kingdom, listed among the top five destinations, was ranked the highest for good shopping, cultural sites, fun and other sites to see.
The professors presented the research earlier this year at the World Conference on Hospitality, Tourism and Event Research and International Convention and Expo Summit, held in Bangkok.