Operators are hailing the “Joanna Lumley effect” after seeing a surge in enquiries for India following the start of the presenter’s new TV series.

The three-part ITV travel documentary, Joanna Lumley’s India, began last Wednesday (July 5) and sees the Absolutely Fabulous star return to her Indian roots, including visits to Mumbai, Rajasthan, her birthplace Kashmir and the tiger reserve in Ranthambore National Park.

Travel companies predict the celebrity will have the same impact on India bookings as she did on sales for Japan and the Northern Lights, the focus of previous series, both of which enjoyed a sustained sales boost.

Wendy Wu Tours said India shot to the top of its list of best-selling destinations last week as a result of the show. It reported India sales up 70% for the past 12 months, while forward bookings are more than double last year.

Global product director Jonathan Wilson said: “Joanna Lumley resonates well with customers; people trust her.

“We saw it with Japan; it’s not just a quick hit. We have seen phenomenal growth for Japan and customers still talk about her. I expect the same for India.”

Newmarket’s head of trade sales, Richard Forde, said the escorted-tours operator booked 75 passengers on India trips last week. “We had a spike in calls over the weekend. TV really works for us and it’s a case of capitalising on it.”

The operator said passenger numbers were up from 700 in 2014, when it introduced India, to 3,000 this year.

Cosmos head of product, commercial and purchasing, Rob Goodwin, said the company had a “strong week” last week. “The Joanna Lumley effect has helped; she reassures people,” he said.

Joanna Lumley’s India airs on Wednesdays on ITV at 9pm.