Cinema tourism, leisure outbound registering steady growth, says Christine Mukharji

Austria was steadily gaining ground as an attractive cinema shooting destination. Not only Bollywood but cinema industry from the South, too, was taking to the central European nation, said Christine Mukharji, Director, Austrian National Tourist office. An exclusive on trends in, cinema shoots, liesure outbound and much more:

Since the historic and Oscar-winning movie ‘the Sound of Music’, Austria has steadily found resonance amongst the cinema fraternity. Looking at the big picture, how has been the Indian cinema and television fraternity’s foray into the Central European nation?

Over the years film shootings in Austria have grown steadily. Indian films whether from the Hindi film industry or the films from the south of India have been shot in Austria at regular intervals. Films like Ae Dil Hain Mushkil (Vienna/Innsbruck) and Tiger Zinda Hai (Innsbruck/Tirol) are the recent Bollywood blockbusters shot in Austria. Recently released Tamil film Junga has been shot in Salzburg. There has also been an Indian television series ‘Pardes Mein Hain Mera Dil’ which was shot extensively in the Innsbruck/Tirol region of Austria recently.

Given that several nations, in the vicinity of Austria, have been assiduously attracting the cinema community, the prime example being Switzerland. How much has that been the focus of Austria tourism in India?

 As a Tourism Board, we do not play an active part in coordinating film shoots. To handle and smoothly align these cinema initiatives, we have dedicated units like Austria Film Commission and Cine Tirol which take care of the same. City tourist boards, especially, Innsbruck and Vienna are very welcoming and supportive of Indian film shoots in Austria and are fully involved in the process. 

How has 2018 been, in terms of footfalls and tourist spends? Where does India stand in the pecking order as a source market? The focus initially, as reported in the media, was on attracting leisure travellers, seeking soft activities in the summer months. How has that unfolded?

 Numbers of Indian tourists travelling to Austria has steadily increased over the years that we have been present in India. In 2017 we have had in arrivals: 1,77,653 (plus 21 percent over 2016), and in overnights: 2,71,410 (plus 20 percent over 2016). The initial numbers of 2018 are already very positive, and we are looking to end on a high note, once again, with a good increase in numbers.

In addition to leisure, we have in the recent years seen very good footfalls in the MICE segment and the season ahead already looks very encouraging. Austria has also hosted a few very big Indian weddings in the last couple of years, so we are also looking at further promoting the segment. Indian school holidays, summer months, are still our biggest season for leisure travellers but MICE and other travel sectors keep our numbers on a steady incline during other parts of the year. Winter traffic is yet small in comparison but is fast gaining steam and we now have a small but growing segment of winter travellers as well.

India stands at number 21 in order of arrivals into Austria, with numbers from Jan-June in 2018. India stands at number 12 in arrivals for the month of June 2018.

India is a huge market. When you look at regions – namely north, south, east, and west – where do you see maximum growth happening for you? Are there any new pockets, especially in tier-2 and tier-3 cities that are emerging as steady sources for Austria?

 Mumbai and Delhi are still our biggest source markets. In addition, Markets like Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore are also huge markets for us. Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Jaipur, Rajkot, Surat, Nagpur etc. are emerging as growing markets. 

We understand that Austria is an aspirational destination. What are some bottlenecks to your understanding in driving more business from India? How are you tackling those bottlenecks?  

Austria is still a niche destination for the Indian outbound. We see more well-heeled travellers from India than first-time travellers. Being a European country, Austria is, of course, more expensive as a holiday destination for travellers, compared to the neighbouring Asian countries. However, if compared to neighbouring European countries, Austria is a lot cheaper on the pocket than some of its neighbours.

Also given the distance, you cannot get the “long weekend travellers” across to Austria. In addition, in India, we still sell Austria more for its natural beauty, history and culture. Austria’s strongest selling points like skiing and western classical music are still a short sell for the Indian market.

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