Op-Ed: Prophet Bushiri’s crossover services a boost for local tourism

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

By Unathi Sonwabile Henama

A ‘’Night of Angel Gabriel’’, a crossover service was held at the FNB Stadium, organised by the Enlightened Christian Gathering led by Prophet Stepherd Bushiri. He is called ‘’Major 1’’ by his supporters and followers, and this crossover service is the highlight of the calendar.

The FNB stadium was full to capacity and this was of immense economic benefit for the economy of Gauteng, and specifically Soweto. The 2016-2017 crossover service was also held at FNB Stadium, themed the ‘’Night of Honey’’ and the previous one was themed a ‘’Lion of Judah’’.

Both these events filled up FNB Stadium, which means that Prophet Bushiri, is, therefore, the pioneer of #FillUpFNB. The event will continue to gain momentum and diversify the crossover menu for people to choose from. By filling up the FNB stadium, Bushiri moves right up there with music stars, sports cup finals, and the recent #FillUpFNB hosted by Cassper Nyovest.

Major 1 has a huge following

The crossover service was broadcast live on Prophetic Channel and this ensured that it reached a greater audience. Major 1 has a huge following in Southern Africa, with branches in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia, and Ethiopia.

Prophet Bushiri is constructing a megachurch in Midrand. The church already holds its main service in a 20 000 tent at the showgrounds in Pretoria West. The church service in Pretoria attracts thousands of congregants from near and far, domestically and internationally.

The event is profound considering that Gauteng is not a traditional holiday destination, as the province experiences the greater out-migration as people, who travel to the sea and the rural hinterlands along the century-old migrant labour system.

This crossover service by occurring in Soweto ensured that it disperses financial expenditure to the township tourism economy, ensuring that the residents of Soweto become the leading beneficiaries of the event. The five different sectors of the tourism economy which includes: accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, transportation and travel services have benefitted from the crossover service.

Perfect platform for selling and marketing

The sheer number of attendees is a perfect selling and marketing platform, especially for the financial services sector and for the tourism products in Gauteng. Tourism is the ‘new gold’ and it has the potential to diversify the economy of a region. Mining has long lost its shine, as it continues to shed jobs.

Tourism continues to become the economic messiah for the economy. In 2016, South Africa received a 13% year-on-year growth in international tourism arrivals. This occurs when the country won’t even get 1% economic growth. Religious tourism is a form of special interest tourism that has huge potential for destination South Africa.

The recent announcement of Jerusalem as the new home for the American embassy has meant that Jerusalem may suffer a decrease in religious tourists. This must be exploited for destination South Africa, especially trying to lure Muslim tourists, who increasingly shun Muslim-unfriendly destinations.

Latest trend in religious tourism

Cruise ships have emerged as the new phenomenon for the growth of religious tourism, merging religious congregations and tourism. In the United States, the ‘’Phenomenal Life Cruise’’ has been copied and MetroFM has its own MetroFM Gospel Cruise, which was scheduled from the 07 April to 10 April 2017, on the MSC Sinfonia Cruiseship.

Angus Buchan has emerged as one of the major creators of religious tourism events, such as the Sacred Assembly that is held at FNB Stadium, to the National Day of Prayer on the 22 April 2017 in Bloemfontein, which sold out accommodation in Bloemfontein. Bloemfontein was chosen as a venue because it was the centre of the nation.

Nigerian Prophet T.B. Joshua remains a popular evangelist that benefits the Nigerian economy disproportionally. Eight out of ten tourists that arrive in Nigeria at the Martala Muhammed International Airport in Nigeria, are headed for the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).  Thousands of South Africa’s continue to travel to Nigeria to attend the SCOAN.

Opportunities for entrepreneurship

Tourism has an ability to create labour intensive jobs, and opportunities for entrepreneurship, especially for small businesses. Joblessness remains the biggest threat to freedom in South Africa, and one of the structural challenges in our economy.

Our tourism authorities may be oblivious to the tourism potential of religious tourism, as it remains ‘’unseen’’. It is the one sector of the tourism economy that benefits black businesses, as religiously motivated travel is dominated by blacks.

Transforming the tourism economy remains a dream deferred, and religious tourism has the potential to bring the realisation of that dream much closer. Prophet Bushiri has been an enabler of religious tourism and must, therefore, be celebrated for benefiting South Africa’s tourism economy.

Unathi Sonwabile Henama teaches tourism at the Tshwane University of Technology and writes in his personal capacity