Muscat: With help from Bollywood stars like Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, Ireland is back on the tourist map, experiencing an unexpected boost to its tourism.
Shot partly in Dublin last year, the romantic thriller Ek Tha Tiger is one of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters of 2012. It was released on August 15, 2012 in 24 countries world wide where Bollywood "bad boy" Salman Khan and industry favourite Katrina Kaif fell in love in beautiful city
The film is still minting money and according to rough estimates the movie has already earned Rs199.3 crore in India and approximately Rs59.63 crore from all over the world.
"We have seen anecdotal evidence that Ireland, while still a new destination for Oman, is growing in popularity. Following the release of Bollywood film, we have seen enquiries come in from Oman to our Gulf hub, traffic from Oman to both our Arabic and English language websites, and we know that Ireland is growing in popularity as a destination for tertiary education from conversations we have had with educational institutes," said Amanda Burns, general manager Middle East & Asia for Tourism Ireland. Trinity College in Dublin, the setting for the start of Ek Tha Tiger movie and Ireland's oldest university, is today attracting more than 1,000 international
"But we hope to double that amount in the next five years. Bollywood has a huge influence over its audience, and it is estimated that 100 million people will have watched the film over the summer," she said.
She also said that the fact Katrina Kaif and Salman Khan were both enrolled as students in preparation for the filming also adds to the glamour of this stunning university and tourist attraction.
"This film has triggered a wave of renewed interest in Ireland, from the Omani population as well as the large expatriate population from the Asian subcontinent living in Oman following its release in August," she added.
Talking about the trends, she said that they see Omanis travelling to Ireland between May and August to escape the summer heat. "The next step for us will be to show people how much Ireland has to offer all through the year," she added.
She also said that they don't have immediate plans to set up a Tourism Ireland office in Muscat. "But we hope to grow visitor numbers from Oman as its residents learn about all that Ireland has to offer, from amazing outdoor pursuits and sports, to gourmet travel and culture," she added.
Ireland had about 30,000 visitors from the Gulf last year and aims to increase the volume by 10 per cent annually by boosting its presence in this region. Oman is chief among the countries it is targeting.
"The number of visitors to Ireland from the GCC region has grown steadily in recent years. Applications for Irish visas have increased. The Visa Waiver Scheme, launched in 2011, gives GCC nationals the opportunity to visit Ireland on a UK visa, so we are also seeing more dual destination holidaymakers from the region. The GCC is one of Ireland's fastest growing markets, with visitors from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as Oman, visiting the Emerald Isle all year round," she summed up.