September is Tourism Month in this year we will again be making a number of posts linking our research to the challenges and opportunities in this sector:
Event research extends to religious gatherings, by Andrea Saayman.
Recent research by Andrea and Melville Saayman of TREES, in collaboration with Agyapong Gyekye at the University of Venda, investigates the economics of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) gathering at Moria, in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Compared to countries such as Saudi Arabia, India, the Vatican City and Portugal, South Africa is not renowned for its focus on religious tourism. However, more than 1.2 million pilgrims travel to Moria annually to attend the gathering of the ZCC held over Easter weekend. The ZCC is the largest indigenous church in Southern Africa, with a membership of more than 20 million. The church was founded in 1910 by Engenas Lekganyane.
A survey of 800 pilgrims during the gathering at Moria 2011 revealed that most pilgrims are domestic tourists (95%) with only approximately 5% originating from outside the country’s borders. The church provides tented accommodation, but many pilgrims stay in busses during the 3 days of prayer. Local food vendors provide some nourishment and it is therefore not surprising that the spending per pilgrim is quite low. Total spending by pilgrims is calculated to be R365.5 million. Through direct and indirect linkages between industries, as well as induced effects due to increased income of consumers, the total impact that this yearly religious event has on the economy of Limpopo is estimated at to exceed R400 million.
Although the influence that the event has on the local economy is small compared to large religious events, such as the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, it still remains a substantial event hosted by the Limpopo province and the most noticeable religious gathering in Southern Africa.
The full research article is forthcoming in the International Journal of Tourism Research.