More and more Indian tourists are making a beeline for the Swiss Alps -- thanks to Bollywood which has now made the landlocked European nation one of its most favourite outdoor locations in the overseas.
In fact, Indian tourists are mostly drawn by Switzerland's picturesque locales, scenic routes and beautiful mountains that form the backdrop of many blockbuster movies. And with 47 of its peaks rising over 3,000 metres, the country without doubt, is Alpine land par excellence.
"We have come to Switzerland to see the landscape that we often see in Hindi movies. It is like a heaven. It is the visit of a lifetime," says first-time visitor Prakash Mehta, a Delhi-based businessman who is currently touring the Alpine country with his family.
According to Swiss tourism figures, nearly a quarter of a million Indians visit this country every year and there is an upward trend. "This clearly shows that Bollywood has cast its spell on tourism," says Walter Hofer of the Reiseburo (tourist bureau) in financial capital Zurich.
In fact, more than 200 Indian films have been shot in Switzerland over the past two decades, with the country making its first appearance in the 1964 movie Sangam. Several recent super-hits, including Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kabhi
Khushi Khabhi Gham and Mujhse Dosti Karoge, were also extensively shot in this country.
While Engelberg, in the Bernese-Oberland, showcased in many Bollywood films, is the most popular resort followed by cities like Zurich and Lausanne, Jungfraujoch or the Top of Europe in the Swiss Alps near Interlaken still retains the top slot when it comes to Indians visiting snow-capped mountains.
"Engelberg, some two hours drive from Zurich, is visited by a number of Indians for skiing as much for its clean air. With its combination of modern sports facilities and alpine location, Engelberg is a magnet for both summer and winter tourism. The main sights are Mount Titlis and Mount Hahnen, both popular shooting locations," Hofer says.
Similarly, at an amazing 3,454 metres, Jungfraujoch or Top of Europe is equally a sought-after destination -- with the trip taking one via Kleine Scheidegg and through the Eiger North Wall up to the scenic splendours of the mountain range in the heart of a wonderworld of glaciers and eternal ice.
"We decided to go to Jungfrauhoch when we were planning our trip to Switzerland. It's on top of our travel agenda. It is worth spending some good money to see a range we normally see in popular Hindi movies," says Indian tourist K Konkalla, a professional with a software firm in Chennai.
Sums up Thomas Wuthrich of Lasusanne-based EchoFilm, "It's a fact that Indian movies have attracted Indians to Switzerland in the tens of thousands. The country's public transportation system and short distances make it an ideal location for foreign filmmakers.
"And though the cost of living in Switzerland is high, filmmakers don't feel the pinch as it offers all facilities in package deals -- technical hlp, shooting equipment, scouting for locales are all available in plenty.
"Moreover, one can finish a 15-day shoot in India in a week here. This is because within 50 kilometres, you have lakes, mountains, glaciers and big commercial complexes. No doubt Indian tourists will keep coming more."