Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Entertainment, stars and tourists converge to deliver a home run

This is the 2nd article that is pure fiction, all part of projections for India in 2020. This assignment is something that I loved. It let all of us wear our thinking caps and brought out some excellent output. 
Bollywood as an exporter of Indian culture – this phrase is perhaps as old as the Indian film industry itself. Indeed, Raj Kapoor and his movies like Shree 420 were such a rage in Russia , Iran, Middle east and Egypt that they typified the internal post independent conflicts, we as a nation were faced with, torn between a ladder to modernity and struck with the legacy of imperial conquest. India as a land of snake charmers and tight rope walkers – this phrase needs no explanation either as in the eyes of the westerner, this was the dominant perception until the IT boom catapulted our intellectual capital to global heights. Slowly, as the Government’s “Incredible India” campaign gathered steam, this perception gave way to pictures of exotic boat houses in Kerala and Srinagar, idyllic valleys of the Himalayas and the north east not to mention, an attractive destination for medical tourism. Over the last decade, these two potent forces -in Bollywood and tourism- have converged and delivered a home run to India’s growth story, thanks to the celebrity patrons the Government has managed to rope in for its tourism thrust.

Take Aamir Khan as an example – the actor was one of the first few campaigners for Incredible India, one of the most remarkable brand building exercises ever undertaken in India’s modern history. The actor is now engaged fulltime in promoting India globally as a tourist destination for tourists of every hue and colour. Other contemporaries of Aamir Khan like Shah Rukh Khan and Mohan Lal from the south have come together after a voluntary retirement from movies as brand ambassadors of Indian tourism. The ladies were not far behind when Konkana Sen Sharma, Nandita Das and Kareena Kapoor jumped onto this limelight vehicle when age caught up with their movie careers. This has been a win-win situation for all the stakeholders involved with Bollywood movies shunning exotic foreign locales, local Indian tribals and villagers raking in the moolah and the Government facilitating the entire exchange.

The Indian tourism industry recorded phenomenal growth over the last decade with a consistent upward trajectory. A stable government, relatively peaceful neighbourhood, marked improvement in rural infrastructure, an increasingly educated populace, a rising global awareness thanks to the profusion of communication technologies and cooperative state governments came together to script an incredible campaign. From the promotion of innovative energy huts to the advertisement of the remote mountainous north eastern terrain, the campaign wove such a beautiful yarn of the country that it was compelling for the traveller willing to have a good time. The tourism industry’s share in the nation’s GDP hovered around a decent 6.5 to 7 % at the beginning of the decade and now stands at a sizeable 12%. This doubling in some part, is a reflection of the country’s phenomenal economic growth over the decade.

With the successful conduct of the common wealth games 2010 at New Delhi, tourists began to flock in huge numbers to discover the Indian heartland.  A refurbished tourism ministry under the Rahul Gandhi administration with the stewardship of Omar Abdullah seized the opportunities as they came by. Medical tourism and Eco tourism have been the mainstays of the industry. Ancillary industries like hospitality and healthcare also gained as a consequence of the windfall. As India’s share of foreign tourists stands the highest in the world at an impressive 8%, the occupancy rates in the Indian hotel industry have reached an all time high of 92%. As per a report released by ASSOCHAM (Associated chambers of commerce and industry of India) there are nearly 100 new hotel projects in various stages of development. The tourism industry accounted for only 6.5 % of the total employment in 2010 while exactly a decade later, that figure has also doubled to hover around 12%. Little wonder that India is ranked 1st in the World’s list of attractive Asia pacific tourism destinations as per the travel and tourism competitiveness report of 2019.

Bollywood super heroes who were on the verge of retirement got enamoured of the idea and threw their weight behind tourism as it grew. They influenced producers to shoot in scenic places within the country rather than venturing out to the erstwhile hotspots of Switzerland and New Zealand. It helped that Indian film entertainment too grew alongside with cross over cinema and multilingual cinema gaining in momentum due to rapid globalisation and rising number of cosmopolitan cities. Film industry grew at a CAGR of 14% over the decade with its share of contribution to the overall media industry’s revenue pie increasing from 150 billion in 2010 to 450 billion in 2019. This combination of superstars, movie entertainment and tourism has some lessons for the future growth momentum as well. Wherever synergies are natural, leverage them to laugh all the way to the banks!