In its search for creative ways to pull in new visitors from India, Switzerland’s official tourist board is sponsoring a Miss India beauty pageant to promote the small alpine country as a tourist destination in India.
“Sponsoring the ‘Miss Photogenic’ prize of the Miss India beauty pageant fits perfectly with the beautiful and extremely photogenic background Switzerland is offering to magnify the beauty of the participants,” Véronique Kanel, spokesperson for Switzerland Tourism, told swissinfo.ch.
A total of 21 finalists will be competing for the Miss India title on March 28.
The winner of the prize will get an all-expenses-paid holiday in Switzerland which they are expected to share via social media. Their trip will also be featured in the popular Indian women’s magazine Femina.
“We see the winners as ambassadors for Switzerland in India,” said Kanel.
Contestants from Miss India have won two Miss Universe and five Miss World titles, so far. Many of them have moved on to a career in Bollywood, acquiring nationwide fame.
However, beauty pageants are not always viewed favourably in India. There were violent protests against the Miss World pageant held in Bangalore in 1996 over claims that it was demeaning to women and against traditional Indian values.
Beauty contests in India have also been accused of featuring only fair-skinned women that are not representative of the diversity among the different ethnicities in India.
Kanel doesn’t think there is a risk that Switzerland Tourism could be perceived as supporting the objectifying of women.
“Beauty pageants, whether for men or women, still make people dream around the world, and beauty is not the sole aspect that fascinates the public, but the personality of the contestants is also important,” she said.