Priyanka Chopra and Amitabh Bachchan are likely to be formally appointed brand ambassadors of the Union Tourism Ministry's flagship campaign "Incredible India". An official announcement is expected after Republic Day celebrations on 26 January, 2016, suggested a report in India Today, and added that the two Hindi film actors won't be charging any fee for the three-year campaign. They are replacing Aamir Khan.
The question that arises is whether the two actors will be able to make any substantial difference to the $20 billion India earns from foreign tourists annually, in the context of gloomy global economic growth projections by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 2016 and 2017.
Foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) and the amount they spend (foreign exchange earnings, or FEEs) depend on growth outside India, especially in top source destinations like the US, Bangladesh, the UK, Australia, Singapore and the Russian Federation, from where most tourists come to India.
The 2015 calendar year saw foreign tourists spending $19.67 billion, 2.8% less than $20.23 billion they spent in the previous year, though the number of FTAs rose 10.2% to 80.16 lakh in 2015 from 76.79 lakh in 2014.
The trend is likely to persist or even weaken in the current year and and the next if the economic growth projections by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are reasonable indicators.
The IMF, in its update released on 19 January, lowered its global growth forecast for 2016 to 3.4% and 3.6% in 2017, a cut of 0.2 percentage points for both years from its October 2015 estimate. The World Bank's 7 January report said global economic growth would be 2.9% in 2016.
The IMF further said the US would grow 2.6% in 2016, down 0.2 percentage points from its October 2015 estimate, while the UK is expected to grow at a modest 2.2%. The Russian economy is expected to contract by 1.4% in the current year and grow by 1% in 2017.
Falling crude oil and commodity prices, coupled with a slowdown in China, are likely to make matters worse at a global level, apart from rising geopolitical tensions in West Asia.
Besides, it is worth pondering whether the two actors will be able to devote enough time for the "Incredible India" campaign, given their commitments.
Priyanka Chopra, who is busy shooting for the American TV series "Quantico" in Montreal, will have to take out time for her digital foray, "It's My City". The 14-episode mobi-series was digitally launched a couple of days ago. The Hindi film actor is so preoccupied with the shooting for "Quantico" that she doesn't have time for Hindi films.
"The Quantico schedule has hit my Bollywood plans for a six," Bangalore Mirror quoted Priyanka Chopra as saying.
Her mobi-series, modelled on "Sex and the City", would dwell on the experiences of characters played by four new actors â€” Saudamini Kalra, Disha Thakur, Aneesha Shah and Yasemin Delikan â€” and will add to her already busy schedule, which also includes product endorsements, leaving little time for a critical campaign like "Incredible India".
Amitabh Bachchan, the 73-year-old actor, is a perennially busy celebrity, endorsing products and events (in some of which his son Abhishek Bachchan has commercial interests), apart from Hindi films.
Given these circumstances, it would be far-fetched to expect Priyanka Chopra and Amitabh Bachchan to make an impact on foreign tourism earnings through the ministry's flagship campaign "Incredible India".