Switzerland has much that Scotland’s tourism industry can envy. Access to fantastic chocolate, better weather than us - and a firm grasp on the devoted Bollywood holiday market. But times are changing and while the Lindt may elude us and the rain remains, we might be getting closer to challenging the Alpine crown for a new tourism market.
There is no doubt that Bollywood is big business. With around 800 movies made every year, involving 2.5 million people, there is no doubt about its economic or popular appeal.
The films, musical extravaganzas which usually centre on thwarted love and big set-piece musical numbers, have key dream sequences, normally shot in countries which look as unlike India as possible. Switzerland has been a longtime favourite of directors, but now wild vistas and Highland castles have lured them to Scotland. Around eight Bollywood hits a year are being shot in the UK and where the film-makers go, the film-obsessed tourists are quick to follow.
Switzerland may have lost its place as Bollywood’s favourite location but while the filming has dried up, the tourism continues to grow. It takes years to build a new tourism market from scratch and Scotland’s popularity has only peaked in the last three years. The potential for tourism is yet to be realised.
Recent figures say that more than 200,000 Indian tourists spend 140 million annually in the UK and their numbers are growing by 13 per cent a year. The British Tourism Authority (BTA) is keen to cash in on the tour circuit, which means the shameless wooing of India’s five million wealthy middle class and young business travellers.
Prem Subramaniam, who manages the BTA’s activities in India, says: "For Indian film enthusiasts, visiting British locations where Indian stars have made films is akin to the pilgrimage that other people make to Abbey Road to be photographed on the Beatles zebra crossing.
"Visitors from India want to follow a Bollywood trail, which they can end with a round of golf and a look at the castle where Madonna got married."
To date, around 55,000 Bollywood location maps of the UK have been distributed in India and the Middle East. Product placement of bottles of malt whisky and V-necked Pringle sweaters in some films form part of a "branding" of Britain, while Bollywood stars regularly pose in Union flag knitwear in tourist brochures and India’s 300 Bollywood magazines.
One Scottish firm is also determined to get in on the act. Rabbie’s Trail Burners, one of the country’s most creative touring companies, has designed a series of Bollywood packages, taking in many of the locations which feature in recent Bollywood films.
Managing director, Robin Worsnop, says: "The Indian travel market and the Bollywood effect is something that I feel Scotland needs to capitalise on more than it has done. The films can act as a hook to bring visitors to Scotland in the same way that a film like Braveheart did, if we know how to market it properly."
Worsnop is considering inviting Bollywood stars to accompany Indian journalists on a tour of key locations and he may use British Asians as tour guides.
He says: "The significance of Scotland to Bollywood was given very high prominence in the biggest-selling Bollywood film ever Kuch Kuch Hota Hai , or Something is happening to me, which was entirely set in India, except for the most important scene - the dream scene when they play the title song.
"This is set in the Highlands and made Eilean Donan an icon of Bollywood films.
"The sequence starts at the Black Rock Cottage in Glencoe and travels over the landscape of the Highlands, taking in Eilean Donan as well as Loch Lomond and the Inchmahome priory on the Lake of Menteith."
There has been a particular concentration on Bollywood this summer, with the opening of the Andew Lloyd Webber musical Bombay Dreams and the Shah Rukh Khan showcase of films at the Edinburgh Film Festival - the capital also being a favourite of film-makers.
However, the window of opportunity for capitalising on Bollywood in terms of tourism may be closing. Scottish Screen believes that the Bollywood directors’ craze for Scotland is probably dropping off, so the tourism potential needs to be milked now.
Bollywood reached its production peak in 1991, when 1,215 films were produced, and while there is no indication that the industry is slowing down, the chances are that Scotland will cease to be so involved in the future. There are already signs that England is the next hot location. A new fascination for grandeur in the shape of Kew Gardens and Windsor Castle appears to have inspired directors on the newest films, so perhaps it is time to give up the films gracefully, while unceremoniously nabbing the tourism.
Loch Lomond was used for location work on Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Jaanam Samijha Karo (1999), Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke (2000), Pyaar Kiya Nahin Jata (2001), Pyaar Ishq aur Mohabbat (2001) and Soch (2001)
Inveraray was also used for Soch (2001)
Glen Nevis was featured in Main Solahs Baras Ki (1998), Jaanam Samijha Karo (2001), Pyaar Kiya Nahin Jata (2001)
The Greater Galsgow area provided locations for Hero Hindustani
Glencoe was used in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Main Solahs Baras Ki (1998), Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi (2001) and Soch (2001)
Angus and Dundee were locations for Aarzoo (1999)