Religious tourism: The post-Macufe future

2015-10-21 06:00
UNATHI HENAMA, lecturer.

UNATHI HENAMA, lecturer.

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TO write about any religious leader is always harder than writing about a politician. I have had enough time to ponder the reaction to this article and I have decided that compliments and condemnations will be treated with the same appreciation.

My article seeks to ignite a public discourse on aspects related to tourism economics, which have received little to no attention in the media. I would therefore ask for humility in the reading and assimilation of this article.

The sociology of public discourse in South Africa of late has been laced with hate speech, and a lack of appreciation of divergent views. A total of 84 South Africans were killed when they were in Nigeria to attend a church service by TB Joshua – a tragedy.

The majority that lost their lives are South Africans and not all the bodies have been repatriated back to South Africa. This remains tragic, as this robs families of the opportunity to find closure by burying their loved ones, in line with customs and beliefs.

The Synagogue Church of All Nations plays an important religious role in the lives of its congregants. TB Joshua has gained prominence for his calling in religion, and has been able to attract multitudes of followers. These multitudes that follow TB Joshua, would rightfully seek to visit the shrine in Nigeria.

TB Joshua from time to time undertakes a journey to visit destinations on a pilgrimage to meet congregants. After the loss of life in Nigeria, TB Joshua made a commitment to visit the families of those in South Africa who had lost loved ones.

The commitment by TB Joshua to visit South Africa has been met by a continuum of responses, from those that are welcoming to those that call for the arrest of TB Joshua on his arrival in South Africa.

I would rather suggest a win-win from the tragedy in Nigeria. We must not be scared to turn lemons into lemonade. The role of the intelligentsia in society is to challenge the beliefs of society, to remind society of unknown knowns and, most important. to challenge the stubbornness of societys’ stratified relations.

Congregants from South Africa and other countries greatly benefited the tourism industry in Nigeria. When visitors arrive in Nigeria they would have flown in, they would be in need for accommodation, travel services and obviously some shopping would also be necessary.

It is advisable not to tell someone in South Africa that you are going outside of the country because they, yes I mean they, would make a trolley full of demands, without contributing to your pocket fiscus. Therefore, these congregants would attend the church services and benefit spiritually.

TB Joshua is a very powerful man and like a tide into a beach, he does not come alone. Yes, he does not come alone. South Africa should embrace TB Joshua. Let us forget 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.

Macufe, hosted in Bloemfontein over two weeks, presents a gospel festival on the Sunday of the first week. Immediately after the two weeks of Macufe, the city goes back to the less than full restaurants, the less than 60% of occupancy in hotels, and a decrease in arrivals.

Tourism is a highly competitive industry and it requires constant creativity to gain a competitive advantage. TB Joshua has the ability to provide any secondary city with the competitive advantage of attracting tourists to a destination.

This will keep the pubs and restaurants full, keep the accommodation establishments full, and attract visitors with full wallets.

Close your eyes and imagine this reality of tourism economics. Imagine TB Joshua being invited to come to Bloemfontein for a week to use the Seisa Ramabodu Stadium as the site for this church service.

This would be post Macufe events. In tourism we always seek to ensure that tourists extend their length of stay and increase their expenditure at the destination.

Also, the growth of At Boshoff’s Christian Revival Church (CRC) in Bloemfontein can possibly make Bloemfontein South Africa’s newest post-apartheid Moria.

Again, I was only reflecting on tourism economics and its ability to change the economic destiny of a destination by creating jobs and improving the quality of life.

) Henama teaches Tourism in the Department of Tourism Management at the Tshwane University of Technology

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