With youth unemployment at an all-time high, South Africa urgently needs to find ways to create jobs. One industry that has been successful in this area is film production. In fact, the audio-visual and interactive media sectors added a whopping R48.4 billion to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021.
South Africa’s film industry definitely stands out amongst its African peers, according to
Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro. She explains the film industry plays a role in promoting destinations to a global audience—and Wesgro provides assistance and information for film producers looking to shoot in South Africa.
“Some of the world’s most iconic destinations have been put on the map by the film industry, such as New Zealand, thanks to movies like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and locations in the UK that were used for the Harry Potter movies,” says Stander.
Targeting tourists in digital worlds
While blockbuster films such as Mission Impossible 8 (filmed in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal) and the popular Dutch TV show Wie is de Mol? (hosted in the Western Cape) have drawn big-budget crews to South African soil, Stander says there is also enormous potential for the gaming film market.
To connect with a new generation of gaming filmmakers and their audiences, Wesgro launched the Roblox Play Before You Stay campaign, aligning with the insight that children often help guide parental holiday decisions. As Stander explains, “It’s a playable Table Mountain experience where kids can explore the 7th Wonder of the Natural World. By gamifying this tourist destination, Wesgro is also putting the Western Cape on the map for the next generation of travellers”.
Where international crews stay and play
Valerie Rose, a travel and accommodation coordinator in film and television who regularly works with Netflix and CBS, says that beyond assisting the crew with travel post-COVID, she helps many international team members with bookings for their families to join them. Bookings can span anything from two months to a year, she says.
“The Waterfront Marina precinct benefits a lot from international crews because it is safe, close to amenities, and easy to get onto the highway to the Cape Town Film Studios”, says Rose. She highlights that apartments in the area are popular because they are private, peaceful, design-led, and fully serviced—ideal for teams that regularly push 12-hour workdays. Luxury hotels also benefit from international production teams. Rose works with a range of budgets, with most bookings in the R2 000–R3 000 per night range.
There is also a high demand for travel to more remote locations, including the Drakensburg, Upington, and the Western Cape. Large crews of up to 400 people can make a place their base for a few weeks, transforming quiet backwaters. “The crews really make full use of what the area has to offer; they will visit the restaurants and attractions. Everyone is given a per diem or living allowance to spend, which goes directly into the local economy”, says Rose.
The positive spinoffs are endless, declares Rose, adding that clients often leave South Africa vowing to return as a tourist or to purchase property.
Tapping into the travel film niche
“When there is downtime, they want to go and explore South Africa. Cast and crew that can afford it will choose the luxury safari option. If timing is tight, they visit reserves that are close to them”, says Rose. Opportunities abound for travel managers to tailor-make experiences to suit their needs and budget.
One of the challenges of operating in the film travel niche is working with multiple time zones. “My travel agents can sit with me from 6 am to 2 am on any given day. They are also very aware of the personalities we deal with and the budgets. I’ve dealt with travel agents on shows around the world, and the travel agents in South Africa are amongst the best in the world”, says Rose.