Can Life of Pi Boost Incredible India’s Tourism?

The Indian Tourism Board missed a huge marketing opportunity to put India on the Chinese tourist’s radar with Ang Lee’s film. Why isn’t the Indian government capitalising on the film’s success in China?

Alphabet_Ang Lee’s film adaptation of Yann Martel’s classic book Life of Pi has been a success worldwide. Not just for its stunning visual effects and technological brilliance, but also for its ability to evoke feelings of awe, adventure and spiritual calm in its audiences.

But there’s one aspect where India could – and should – have capitalized on with this film: the opportunity to promote its tourism, especially to the Chinese. China is poised to become the world’s largest tourist nation by 2015, and the Indian Tourism Board could have used Life of Pi’s strong Indian elements to market itself to China’s 1.3 billion population.

The film has everything going for it, in terms of attracting tourists to the gems of India – spirituality, the world-famous Bengal Tiger and the pristine French-influenced South Indian city of Pondicherry. The Indian Tourism Board could have taken these elements from the film and applied it to their ‘Incredible India’ advertising campaign.

“Columbus was searching for India.”

Today, only 0.001 percent of Chinese tourists visit India in comparison to the large numbers that visit UK and Europe. A lack of Chinese-speaking guides and authentic cuisine puts Chinese travellers off India, while cheaper shopping and international brands lures them towards UK and Europe. In China, where the film has broken box office records and raked in US$16 million in its opening weekend alone, marketing the film’s Indianness could have done wonders for the tourism industry.


After seeing the film, a significant number of young Chinese have expressed a desire to explore India on the social network platform Weibo (China’s version of Twitter). However, what has the Indian government done to promote that interest? Movies are often used by tourism ministries to promote a country by showcasing its culture and exotic locations. The late Yash Chopra put Switzerland on the map for every Indian with his films, while Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara generated a massive interest in Spain. Life of Pi could have been a golden ticket to boost India’s tourism industry. After all, as Pi himself says in the film, even “Columbus was searching for India.”

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