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Lights, Camera, Action! Dubai Woos Bollywood - an article by Nikhil Lohade for The Wall Street Journal
Date: September 15th 2013 Origin: Dubai Type: External
Roll camera, action! Not words you would normally hear at the Atlantis resort on Dubai’s iconic palm-shaped island, where guests are more likely to capture their holiday moods on handy smartphones and pocket-sized cameras.
But these days the luxury resort is playing host to superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s production company as it films ‘Happy New Year’ – a big-budget movie that features him along with several other major Bollywood actors.
Some significant portions of the film — including the climax — are being shot in and around the resort, its director Farah Khan said in a press statement released by Dubai Film and TV Commission, a body tasked by the government to promote the desert-state as a destination for local, regional and international productions.
And its been a busy year so far for them as they facilitated the shooting of several international productions including Indian films such as Ramaiya Vastavaiya, Ladies and Gentleman and Mental, DFTC says.
Dubai wooing Bollywood makes a lot of economic sense.
The emirate, which has relatively small reserves of oil & gas compared with its neighbours, has pushed hard in recent years to build its economy on trade and tourism. The latter contributed about 10% to Dubai’s GDP last year according to some estimates, and 2013 is expected to be a bumper one as well in terms of visitor numbers amid political unrest elsewhere in the wider Middle East region.
Importantly, India is one of Dubai’s top 10 guest-source markets, according to the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. And the potential for growth is massive given India’s huge middle class that increasingly wants a taste of the high life, which is very easily accessible in Dubai. Besides, the city-state — part of the United Arab Emirates — is also home to a large Indian community.
The connect is very obvious in this scenario. After all, Bollywood is one of the biggest attractions for Indians globally and its consumer-base is only growing across markets including in the Arab world.
As Ahmad Belhoul, the CEO for strategy and tourism sector development at DTCM, put it: “The influence of film is incredibly important when it comes to travellers’ decision-making and the images people form of destinations.”
Dubai though is not the only one trying to attract Bollywood to its shores. It faces strong competition from the likes of the United Kingdom, Europe and Canada. To push its case, the emirate is offering a range of customized incentives that significantly reduce the cost of filming in Dubai, DFTC notes.
For ‘Happy New Year’, Dubai’s flag carrier Emirates Airline flew the film’s stars and crew to the city and the Atlantis is hosting the production.
“India is a significant tourism market for the resort and for Dubai,” said Serge Zaalof, the managing director at Atlantis, The Palm