BY UNATHI HENAMA
Angus Buchan hosted the National Day of Prayer on Saturday, 22 April 2017 in Bloemfontein. The roads leading from Bloemfontein were full and the flights and accommodation experienced the full reality. Bloemfontein does not have more than 12,000 beds, and these were fully booked. What this proved without doubt is that religious tourism is a form of special interest tourism that must catch the attention of politicians and the private sector. Religious tourists have wallets full of cash and this market should be a focus of attention for South Africa.
South Africa is blessed with several African Initiated Churches such as the Zion Christian Church at Boyne, the Shembe church (Nazareth Baptist Church) whose pilgrims ascend the holy mountain of Nhlangakazi, near Ndwedwe and the International Pentecostal Church (IPHC) in Zuurbekom, on the West Rand of Gauteng. These churches attract thousands of visitors from neighboring countries, benefiting South Africa’s economy generously. Prophet TB Joshua remains one of the most popular ‘’
Prophet TB Joshua remains one of the most popular ‘’man of the cloth’’ in Africa and he benefits the Nigerian economy disproportionally. Eight out of 10 tourists that arrive in Nigeria are going to TB Joshua’s church. TB Joshua is scared that he might be arrested in South Africa, he then chose to have a week-long pilgrimage in Zimbabwe before the Easter period, with the full knowledge that thousands of South African will run to Zimbabwe to his pilgrimage.
Demand to travel to Nigeria to visit the SCOAN remains robust from South Africa, considering the cost is around R24 000. Now TB Joshau wants to relocate his ministry to Israel after being offered land and facilities by the mayors of Jerusalem, Tiberias and the Jordan Valley. Israel is doing this for selfish reasons of seeking to ensure that they diversify their religious pilgrims market, which is primarily from the USA. Africa remains underrepresented in terms of religious pilgrimage trips to Israel, and TB Joshua is their key to unlock the African market. This means that thousands of South Africans will soon be making their way to Israel. South Africa must appreciate Shepherd Bushiri for making Pretoria a type of Jerusalem, a site of religious pilgrimage. Major One, is building a mega church in Midrand, that will be a site of religious pilgrimage for thousands of local and regional tourists. Shepherd Bushiri must be granted permanent residency as he is a contributor towards economic growth. Thanks to the government of Botswana for putting on visa regulations on South Africa based Shepherd Bushiri, who heads the Enlightened Christian Church, Pretoria will continue to benefit from thousands of Batswana that visit the church at the Tshwane Events Centre.
In an article titled ‘Religious tourism: the post-Macufe future’, I proposed that South Africa should embrace TB Joshua. Let us forget the religion for a minute and let us think of the economic value of each congregant that visits and think of their overall economic contribution, all following TB Joshua… TB Joshua has the ability to provide any secondary city with the competitive advantage of attracting tourists to a destination’’. Religious tourism is able to create jobs and sustain economic growth as we enter the “special period” when thinking outside of the box, should be the order of the day especially during the era of Radical Economic Transformation. Radical Economic Transformation must be assisted to assimilate a tourism outlook that embraces the pro-poor potential of religious tourism. One of the biggest barriers to the growth of religious tourism is the crisis called Beitbridge Border Post. The institutionalised poor service and corruption has meant that thousands choose to travel via Botswana to South Africa. This is a form of red tape, which must be resolved to ensure that we offer OR Tambo type of service at Beitbridge. I hope these suggestions don’t fall on deaf ears, considering that there are many lessons that can be drawn from the imminent emigration of TB Joshua. During the Donald Trump era, South Africa should be promoting itself as a destination for Muslim tourists, especially when airlines such as Emirates have reduced flights to the USA after the Muslim ban because of dampened demand. Tourism is a high competitive industry, and Africa must increase its share of the global tourism receipts, which remains below 10%. Tourism requires a collaborative effort to reach its growth trajectory, which will ensure that it continues to drive
During the Donald Trump era, South Africa should be promoting itself as a destination for Muslim tourists, especially when airlines such as Emirates have reduced flights to the USA after the Muslim ban because of dampened demand. Tourism is a high competitive industry, and Africa must increase its share of the global tourism receipts, which remains below 10%. Tourism requires a collaborative effort to reach its growth trajectory, which will ensure that it continues to drive economic growth, create labour intensive jobs and a catalyst for the economy. The immorality of poverty that is the reality for millions of our citizens should make us radical, doing acts of love that will create jobs that restore human dignity.
Henama, a tourism lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology, writes in his personal capacity.