By: Phindile Makwakwa
AS THE Christian world celebrates Easter today, our thoughts turn to religious or faith-based tourism and the billions of people who travel the globe to worship.
Faith-based travel cuts across all ages and economic sectors.
Religious tourism is an important niche market, especially as people tend to travel in groups, boosting numbers and economic impact.
Religious travel has grown. The market has the advantage of appealing to people from across the world, of all ages and of most nationalities. Forecasts are that the market could well double by 2020. During economically difficult times, faith-based travel can provide income to a tourism economy. Travellers are committed to going on pilgrimages and retreats, no matter the state of the economy.
They often travel as part of a religious obligation, to fulfil a spiritual cause or show support for a particular cause, so they save up for what is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In South Africa, services over Easter are well attended.
In Limpopo, one of the two largest Christian gatherings is at Zion City Moria near Polokwane, the headquarters of the Zion Christian Church. The other big gathering is in September. Another, although not at Easter, is the Shembe annual holy pilgrimage.
More than a million Nazareth Baptist Church members embark on a once-a-month pilgrimage on the first Sunday of the new year to the top of the Nhlangakazi mountain, north of Durban.
For more than 20 years, people of all religions have gone to a ridge at the head of a valley Ixopo, Umkomaas in KwaZulu-Natal, to experience peace and tranquillity at the Buddhist Retreat Centre.
In the Underberg district of Creighton, there is the Centocow Mission that has attracted faithful visitors. At the city’s Jewish Club in Durban, the Holocaust and Genocide Centre is also a popular attraction. It attracts thousands of schoolchildren every year.
Durban’s Grey Street mosque, which welcomes tourists, is the largest mosque in the Southern Hemisphere. There is also another famous religious landmark in Chatsworth, some 30km south of Durban. The Sri Sri Radha Radhanath Temple of Understanding, the largest Hare Krishna temple in Africa, which attracts people from across the world.
You don’t have to wait until Easter or other religious holidays to visit these worthwhile tourist venues.