The number of people travelling between Britain and India is soaring – thanks to the Bollywood film industry, says airline Virgin Atlantic.
Passenger numbers have jumped because many tourists are now travelling to India to see the industry first hand and more and more Bollywood films are now being shot in the UK.
So great is demand that Virgin Atlantic has just announced new daily flights between London and Mumbai.
In fact, over 1 million Brits flew to Mumbai in 2011 and IATA predicts that this figure will rise by 6% each year until 2015.
Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman Anna Catchpole commented: “Mumbai is the centre of the Bollywood industry, and we expect it to become just as popular as any of the big sets in Hollywood.”
The increasing popularity of flights for Bollywood film buffs has been accelerated by the number of Indian film production crews coming to the UK to shoot films here.
Oxford, Edinburgh, Carlisle, Cardiff and London have all been used as locations for recent Bollywood blockbusters and Bollywood film buffs will be eagerly anticipating romantic drama Jab Tak Hai Jaan, out at the end of this month. Although mainly filmed in Mumbai, the team spent 35 days filming in London at locations including Borough Market, Jubilee Walk, Trafalgar Square, Palace of Westminster and the O2.
It follows a huge marketing campaign by UK tourist body Visit Britain to lure more Indian film companies to these shores.
Appearing in a Bollywood blockbuster can be worth tens of millions of pounds to the UK economy, boosting tourism and trade as well as the money spent on the film’s production.
Virgin Atlantic’s new daily flight to Mumbai began on October 28thand more than 30,000 tickets have been booked already.
The airline expects to carry over 140,000 passengers per year to the city from London and through connections from the US. The airline already flies daily to Delhi.
The Bollywood film industry produces over 2,000 films every year, making it one of the largest production centres in the world.
Successful films can count their audiences in billions with an increasing proportion of viewers living outside India, including Britain.
Many Bollywood stars, including Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan have all been honoured with statues at London’s Madame Tussauds.
And Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, surrounded by thousands of adoring fans, carried the Olympic flame through London on the day before the opening ceremony – one of the Game’s most prestigious slots.
Said Virgin Atlantic’s Anna Catchpole: “There’s no greater pleasure for Bollywood film fans than to travel to the exact location in Mumbai where some of their favourite films were shot.
“It’s the equivalent of going to Hollywood to see the great Warner Brothers or Universal studio sets. Many companies in Mumbai now offer Bollywood studio tours.
“Travelling there is especially appealing for second and third generation young Indian people since, often, the only impressions they have of India are the images they have see in the Bollywood movie industry.
“Our London to Mumbai flights will also be popular with Bollywood fans in the US, since they link directly with our other flights from all over America.”