What our TV shows can do for tourism

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South African content is an excellent vehicle for driving tourism and the more frequently audiences engage with content. Photo: Sthembiso Lebuso
South African content is an excellent vehicle for driving tourism and the more frequently audiences engage with content. Photo: Sthembiso Lebuso

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Shola Sanni, Netflix’s director of public policy for sub-Saharan Africa, unpacks the company’s latest Cultural Affinity study on the effects of South African content and how this can be leveraged to boost the country’s tourism industry in a post-Covid-19 world.

There is nothing quite like sitting on your couch and becoming immersed in entertaining storylines while being transported to exotic locations. Streaming TV shows and films from around the globe is something many of us have used as an escape from lockdowns and travel bans implemented around the world as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A survey commissioned by Netflix has revealed that, globally, its members who view South African content are more than twice as likely as viewers of other content to visit South African shores. Furthermore, these viewers are three times as likely to choose South Africa as their top travel destination.

The Cultural Affinity study, which polled subscribers and non-subscribers from Brazil, the US, Canada, the UK, France and Germany, explores the effect viewing South African content has on tourism. We believe this effect could be hugely beneficial for the battle-worn South African tourism industry, especially as travel bans begin to be lifted around the world.

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One of the survey respondents, a 23-year-old woman from Brazil, captured this sentiment succinctly after watching Blood & Water: “The friendship of the protagonists made me want to meet people from South Africa. Parties and places frequented by them were also incredible, which has increased my interest in travelling.”

The images audiences gain of destinations and culture from popular productions are highly instrumental in piquing their interest in a particular place.

These endless titles give people insights into distant cultures and ways of living, creating a sense of wanderlust. To this end, South African content is an excellent vehicle for driving tourism and the more frequently audiences engage with content, the greater their interest in visiting the country and exploring its major cities and natural landscapes.

The images audiences gain of destinations and culture from popular productions are highly instrumental in piquing their interest in a particular place

We believe great stories can come from anywhere and be loved everywhere. Storytelling is a powerful tool for fostering change and understanding, while also being entertaining. We strive to be a good partner for the South African creative industry and continue to create new opportunities to carry the country’s stories to the world.

Many of the respondents from the five countries surveyed said watching local content from this country changed the way they thought about people and opened their eyes to cultural and societal aspects to which they had not previously been exposed.

This includes the way citizens interact with each other, as well as the diversity that exists within the country. It highlights the important role local productions can play in dismantling previously held stereotypes and, importantly, increasing the desirability of experiences unique to South Africa.

We are strong supporters of artistic expression. It is why we give creators the freedom to tell their stories the way they want.

Shows like Blood & Water, How to Ruin Christmas: The Wedding, Queen Sono and a number of other South African films and series are made by South African writers and producers, star South African actors and are filmed in South Africa, which makes them a great vehicle for showcasing the country and shattering any preconceived notions.

The most significant aspect of this collection is that it will be made available globally and showcase South Africa’s dazzling, diverse cultures and rich heritage

A key finding of the survey was that South African content could benefit from greater visibility across the globe, something we will help facilitate by partnering with entities like SA Tourism and launching the Made in South Africa content collection, which features original and licensed content made in this country by South Africans, to be watched by the world.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this collection is that it will be made available globally and showcase South Africa’s dazzling, diverse cultures and rich heritage.

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We are deeply aware that the tourism industry has taken a huge knock globally and is possibly one of the most significantly affected sectors by the Covid-19 crisis.

According to the UN, an estimated 100 million to 120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk due to the pandemic. We are trying to do our bit to support this sector.

We have signed a memorandum of understanding with SA Tourism to explore and collaborate on projects both in South Africa and in key source markets to drive international arrivals to the country.

Everything we have done – and plan to continue doing – is guided by our goal of entertaining the world and giving our members the opportunity to discover and enjoy unique stories from anywhere on the planet.

Ultimately, the true measure of our success will be our ability to bring joy to our subscribers, connecting them with authentic storytelling, new voices and perspectives. We hope that, in the process of pursuing this goal, we can expose the world to more of South Africa’s local content, create positive visibility and enhance people’s affinity for the country.


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