Bollywood star Akshay Kumar was named Canada’s tourism ambassador to India. The actor will be promoting Canada as a tourist destination for Indians. The Canadian Tourism Commission recently opened a promotional office in Mumbai.
Kumar has ties to Canada. He was India’s ambassador to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and he carried the Olympic Torch in Toronto as part of the torch relay. In 2008, Kumar received an honorary degree from the University of Windsor for his contribution to the global growth of Indian cinema. Several of his films—including Bewafaa (2005), Humko Deewana Kar Gaye (2006), 8×10 Tasveer (2009), and his upcoming picture Thank You—were shot in Canada.
Vancouver and Toronto have large South Asian communities. Toronto is set to become the first North American city to host one of Bollywood’s major awards ceremonies, the International Indian Film Academy Awards, from June 16-19, 2011.
Canada isn’t the first country to try to attract Indian Bollywood fans. Foreign locations are a staple of Indian cinema and growing numbers of Indians—more than 12 million in 2009—take foreign vacations, often venturing to the places seen in their favorite movies. Switzerland—long featured in Hindi films—has been appealing to Indian travelers with ad campaigns and Bollywood-themed tours that visit the shooting locations of films such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) and Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008). Switzerland also encourages the Hindi film industry to shoot movies there by offering filmmakers expense-paid scouting trips. Over the last several decades, more than 200 Bollywood films have been shot, at least in part, in Switzerland.