To many, it’s no surprise that Hollywood-hit Slumdog Millionaire took home eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. But who knew it would boost tourism in and around Mumbai, a city whose tourism industry was hit hard after the 2008 terrorist attacks?
“There was a time when most travelers tried to avoid the dicey parts of town,” says National Geographic Traveler contributing editor Margaret Loftus in our online special “Slum Tours: Real or Real Tacky?” “But an increasing number are now seeking them out on so-called reality tours. From Rio’s favelas to Mumbai’s Dharavi slum to Nairobi’s Mukuru district, the trend is gaining steam as the latest frontier in travel.”
According to the Economic Times, “Mumbai now tops the chart of global tourist destination followed by countries like Japan, made popular by the movie ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, South America because of ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ based on Che Guevera’s life, and New Zealand for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ which has 17 Oscars to its credit for the trilogy.”
Arthur Hoffman, managing director of Expedia Asia-Pacific, told the Times “movies have a powerful ability to evoke a sense of the exotica about the locations in which they are filmed. They are widely acknowledged to inspire travel to those destinations. For travellers, the fascination of picturing scenes in the film and then comparing it to real life can lead to a strange sense of déjà vu, particularly for those who have seen the movie several times.”
Our colleagues at National Geographic magazine were on the ground in Mumbai — Slumdog‘s setting — documenting the construction of India’s superhighway for their October ’08 feature, “Fast Lane to the Future,” with photographs by Ed Kashi. Called the Golden Quadrilateral, this new highway is an enormous, ambitious infrastructure project connecting Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkota and Bangalore, improving quality of life and bringing economic opportunities to much of India (although there are plenty of disadvantages as well). Check out their video after the jump.
And a bonus: National Geographic’s Pop Omnivore blog talks to Save the Children about how child poverty is portrayed in “Slumdog Millionaire”, and the problems of child labor and human trafficking.