Popular Destination: Movie Film Locations

The plots have shifted to bleak and gory thrillers from angsty, hyper-sexual teenage dramas. Settings are post-apocalyptic industrial sites rather than sunset-lit marsh grass. And the fictional societies are more dystopian and divided than earnest and hopeful.

They’re hardly qualities on which to hang tourism hopes, but the lure of locally filmed movies and TV shows often can be transcendent.

Although Hollywood is a valuable travel agent, there’s no one method to capitalize on it, state and local tourism officials say.

Marketing some locally filmed productions can be difficult, thanks to inaccessible locations – think NBC’s “Revolution” – or spoiler-phobic filmmakers – like Marvel Studios, the company behind “Iron Man 3.”

Not to mention, a series may be axed after two episodes or a movie could be a box-office bomb.

Southport, NC-filmed “Safe Haven” has “definitely” boosted attendance at the city’s Visitor Center since it filmed in the coastal community in 2012, said Southport’s tourism director, Cindy Brochure.

A “Safe Haven”-themed display at the visitor center has helped attract more than 1,400 visitors in February, a month in which tourists are typically scarce, she said.

“Last Saturday morning alone, we had 86 people come in. That’s unheard of in February,” Brochure said. “People are coming from all over – from New England, Ohio, Charlotte and Raleigh. Not everyone is coming to Southport for ‘Safe Haven’ – that’s hard to keep track of – but they’ve been signing in in our guest book and they’re saying they enjoyed our display.”

Tourism agencies don’t yet have a strategy in place to trumpet the May 3 release of “Iron Man 3,” but local officials say they plan to partner with the state to promote the movie that filmed in the area for much of 2012.

All aboard the Joburg tourist bus

“Joburg is two sides of a coin,” I confidently told my sister back in Melbourne when I arrived here over four years ago. “You’re either hustling for a buck or trying to show what you’ve got.” When she visited I took her to the same museums I was shuttled to – Hector Pieterson Memorial and the Apartheid Museum. She couldn’t walk in town, I told her, as I dragged her into my day-to-day rather than show her what the city’s about. Naturally, she had a better time in Cape Town.

Waiting for the new double-decker City Tour bus Tuesday morning, my misgivings about the city’s tourist menu were ready to be erased. After a taxi to town and hike across the bridge, a guard at Park Station’s Gautrain stop directed me to Alfred, the bus company’s marshal. “We launched on 15 January,” said Alfred, who was dressed in a red vest and hails from Mthatha, Eastern Cape. The red buses pass every 40 minutes. Schoolgirls pressed their cell phones against the windows of their parked bus to photograph me while I waited, flipping the tables on the tourist.

City Sightseeing opened its tour operations in Joburg 11 years after launching in Cape Town, where it has two tourist routes. It operates in six continents and almost 100 locations, and for six weeks the red double-deckers with open-air tops have been cruising through Jozi.

“The City Sightseeing tour promises to open up a whole new side of Johannesburg, and in doing so, will grow tourism spend whilst providing employment for local city residents… turning passengers into passionate ambassadors for the golden metropolis,” said Claus Tworeck, CEO of City Sightseeing South Africa, when the new route launched. “The tour will change people’s perceptions of the city of Johannesburg and offer both local and foreign visitors a unique way of exploring this fascinating city.”

The bus has been hailed as a game-changer for Johannesburg tourism. “It has been our vision for many years to ensure that the south of Johannesburg takes its rightful place as a tourist and leisure destination with many diverse attractions,” said Rob Collins, Chief Marketing Officer of Tsogo Sun, when the route opened.