Mumbai: Bollywood actor John Abraham has been appointed the brand ambassador for Arunachal Pradesh to help promote tourism in the north-eastern state. As owner of the Indian Super League team, the NorthEast United Football Club, this association also brings him closer to the region and is a natural fit as the actor is an adventure sports junkie and loves football and biking. “I’ve always been a supporter of the region in a big way… It’s important to have a face that can promote tourism there. My work doesn’t end now, it starts now, to not just promote tourism in the area but also to build equity of the region,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
There have been enough and more instances in the past where states as well as countries have leaned on celebrities such as actors and sports stars to help them win over travellers. Not only do they draw in a much larger audience, but also add some amount of credibility to the destination, often changing misconceptions which may hamper their popularity. Here is a list of five celebrities from the Hindi film industry who have put their weight behind tourism campaigns.
Saif Ali Khan: The national tourism agency of Britain appointed Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan in 2015 to promote an India-centric campaign. With the ‘Bollywood Britain’ campaign and association (see here) with Khan, the agency wanted to focus on locations featured in Hindi films to attract more Indian visitors, especially young travellers. The campaign highlighted different locations featured in some of the Bollywood blockbusters starring the biggest names in Hindi film industry, including Khan.
Amitabh Bachchan: In 2012, the Gujarat state government appointed the actor as an ambassador for tourism, with a campaign (see here) that focused on bringing alive what the state had to offer—history, culture and natural beauty. According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s website, the ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign was instrumental in attracting tourists to the state. Gujarat, according to his website, “witnessed robust growth with a 30% rise in tourist arrival over the 2 years (from 1.70 crore in 2009-10 to 2.23 crore in 2011-12).”
Akshay Kumar: In 2010, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar was appointed as the Canadian Tourism Commission’s (CTC) Ambassador for India (see here ). The actor used his celebrity status in India to promote Canada as a premier four-season destination. The actor, who has a huge following in India and Canada, with his films such as Singh is King seemed like a natural choice for the commission. Kumar also carried the Olympic torch for Canada in Toronto during the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.
Aamir Khan: In 2008, the actor was appointed by the ministry of tourism to promote its Incredible India! Campaign titled “Atithidevo Bhava” (see here ), the Sanskrit phrase that means “guests are like god”. The campaign encouraged people to make guests feel welcome and safe in India and highlighted examples of regular citizens who had gone out of their way to ensure that tourists left with a good experience. It was also aimed at creating awareness about the effects of tourism and sensitising the local population about the need for preservation of India’s heritage and culture, maintain cleanliness and be hospitable. It also attempted to instil a sense of responsibility towards tourists. More recently, there were reports that actor Amitabh Bachchan, brand ambassador of Gujarat tourism, was the Modi government’s first choice as the new face of its ‘Incredible India’ campaign after Aamir Khan ceased to be its mascot.
Yash Chopra: Earlier this year, Switzerland honoured the memory of Indian filmmaker Yash Chopra and installed a special statue of the Bollywood director in the Interlaken area which is a tourist spot and where Chopra shot several of his romantic films, reported PTI. A bronze statue of the filmmaker was installed in the heart of Interlaken. His films, especially blockbuster hits such as Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, which were shot in Switzerland, played a great part in showcasing the beautiful countryside to Indian audiences the world over and in many ways were responsible for pulling South Asian tourists to the region. This is not the first time the filmmaker has been honoured in the region. The government of Interlaken awarded him the honorary title of “Ambassador of Interlaken” in 2011, and Jungfrau Railways named a train after him—an honour shared only with the railway’s founder Adolf Guyer-Zeller.