Perspectives on the Regional Economic Value of a Pilgrimage

Authors


ABSTRACT

Pilgrimages around the world attract large numbers of followers, often classified as religious tourists. More than a million people attend the annual Easter weekend meeting of The Zion Christian Church in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world and could be expected to have a significant impact on the regional economy. The aim of this paper is to shed light on the spending behaviour of pilgrims at the gathering and the impact that the event has on the economy of Limpopo – one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

INTRODUCTION

Religious tourism has been one of the oldest types of tourism since it evolved with humankind (Laderlah et al., 2011). Shani et al. (2007) observed that tourism has always been influenced by global religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism among others. Religious tourism is driven by motives such as curiosity, to learn new cultures or to participate in specific spiritual rituals and beliefs. People travel to see religious attractions, including cathedrals, statues, temples or mosques, or to attend festivals and religious events. As a result, many cities, regions and destinations, such as Fatima in Portugal, Jerusalem in Israel, Czestochowaz in Poland, Lourdes in France and Montserrat in Spain, have become dependent on religious tourism. One example of a major religious event can be found in Saudi Arabia when Muslims gather to make the journey to Mecca. Each Muslim is obliged to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime, and they therefore have to take part in the pilgrimage. A pilgrimage, according to Gladstone (2005:170), is a quest, a journey and the experience of a sacred place or a shrine.

Regardless of the reason or purpose of any type of tourism activity, the fact that people travel to places and take part in activities implies that some expenditure is inevitable. Typical expenditures in these activities include, among others, transport, accommodation, meals, tours and souvenirs, which is also the case for religious tourism activities.

In the words of Tarlow (2010), it is clear that religious tourism is a big business. He supports his statement by emphasizing that in USA alone, some 24% of travellers are interested in religious-based tourism. He further indicates that worldwide, religious travel is one of the fastest growing segments of the industry, with an estimated value of US$1.8 billion (in 2010) and 300 million travellers. No wonder The Economist headlines a paper on religious travel to Mecca as ‘Meccanomics’. They point out that religious tourism is the second-largest industry in Saudi Arabia, only beaten by the oil industry, with a revenue of approximately US$8 billion. In addition, it is growing faster than any other industry in the country (The Economist, 2002). This growth is fuelled by approximately two million foreigners plus an additional 700 000 domestic pilgrims who travel for the ‘Hajj’1 (Sfakianakis & Fransi, 2010). These figures exclude travellers who travel for the ‘Umrah’2 or lesser pilgrimages that are set to grow significantly.

When one looks at religious tourism in other parts of the world, the picture is the same. In India, 70% of domestic tourists travel for religious purposes (Patel & Fellow, 2010). In fact, it is the largest economic sector in the country generating 20% of the revenue (in 2010). One example of religious tourism in India is ‘Tirupati’, where the Lord Ventekshwara Temple attracts between 18 and 20 million foreign and domestic visitors per annum, indicating the size and scope of this type of tourism. Montserrat in Spain attracts approximately two million visitors annually, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal attracts approximately four million people every year.

What is evident from the above is that the number of people involved and the amounts spent through religious tourism make it a noteworthy tourism and economic activity. It is therefore surprising that Vukonic (2002) indicates that religious tourism is one of the least studied fields in tourism. Vukonic (1998) encourages ‘fresh views’ on the topic to obtain a better understanding of the theme and topic under investigation. A review of the literature shows that research carried out on religious tourism in Africa is sparse. Even though several studies have been conducted, most of the research on African religions have dealt with aspects such as the role of religion and politics (Radebe, 2008; Ranger, 1986), growth of Independent Christian Churches (Anderson, 1999; Bompani, 2010) and religion as social change (Garner, 2000) to name a few. As such, the current research addresses mainly the sociological aspects of religion rather than tourism-specific aspects, and in fact, not one study was found dealing with the economics of religious tourism in Africa.

This paper aims to fill this void and investigates the economic impact of one of the largest pilgrimages in Africa, namely the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) in South Africa, to investigate the value of this pilgrimage for the regional economy. The following section provides an overview of the ZCC and the economy of the region in which the pilgrimage takes place.

THE ZION CHRISTIAN CHURCH PILGRIMAGE IN LIMPOPO PROVINCE OF SOUTH AFRICA

About the Zion Christian Church

The ZCC, founded by Engenas Lekganyane in 1910, is the largest African indigenous church in southern Africa. With an estimated membership of about 20 million, the two congregations that constitute the church are led by Barnabas Lekganyane (of the ZCC Star) and Saint Engenas Lekganyane (of the Saint Engenas ZCC), both grandsons of its founder. The emblems of the two congregations are normally worn on their clothes, with an emblem of a star for the original ZCC and a dove for the Saint Engenas ZCC.

As an indigenous African church, the ZCC combines Christianity with some elements of traditional African beliefs. Thus, although Zionist beliefs emphasize the healing power of conventional Christian religion, they respect traditional African religious beliefs, especially those regarding the power of ancestors to intercede on behalf of humans (Anderson, 2000:127; Elphick & Davenport, 1997:224). This may in fact account for the ZCCs large, predominantly black membership.

Several structures have been created within ZCC to provide prayer and communion forums for members including the ‘Mokhukhu’ (meaning sound of feet stomping on the ground in the Sepedi language), the Female Choir, the Male Choir, the Brass Band and ‘Nkedi’. Mokhukhu is generally regarded as the most important of all formations. ZCC practices forbid the consumption of alcohol, smoking and eating pork, and denounce sexual promiscuity and violence. As a result, ZCC members have become known in the business community for their honesty and dependability as employees.

The highlights of the ZCC religious calendar are the annual gathering of members during Easter (and a second gathering in the first week of September) for religious celebrations. Over 1.5 million ZCC members from all the provinces of South Africa as well as from neighbouring countries, undertake the Easter pilgrimage to Moria City, located some 40 km east of Polokwane City in Limpopo Province of South Africa. The pilgrims use various modes of transport, mainly taxis, buses, high-speed passenger trains and private cars.

The pilgrims spend three days worshipping in the open, as the buildings in Moria City are not adequately equipped to cope with the large numbers of people that descend on the city. The church provides limited amenities such as tents, portable toilets and food stalls. Merchandise provided by the church and sold to pilgrims in the food stalls include blessed tea and coffee, holy water and other products (Anderson, 2000:298). The annual gathering at Moria provides a major marketing source and income-generating opportunities for local vendors and entrepreneurs, who are able to sell anything from food to arts and crafts, as well as accommodation.

In summary, the ZCC, by maintaining its large membership among a predominantly black population, and as a consequence attracting millions of people to Moria, is bound to have positive economic spin-offs. The economic impact that the annual pilgrimage has on the region cannot be understated and thus the need for this study.

According to Ritchie and Goeldner (1994), an economic impact is defined as the net economic change in a host country that results from spending by tourists (in the current case, pilgrims) in a given area. However, a clear understanding of the economy of the region is necessary to assess the importance of the pilgrimage.

The economy of Limpopo Province

Limpopo is the northernmost of the nine provinces in South Africa. It borders Mozambique in the east, Botswana in the West and Zimbabwe in the north. In the south, the province shares borders with Mpumalanga, Gauteng and North-west provinces.

The population of the province is about 5.2 million, representing approximately 12% of the total population of South Africa. Women constitute about 54% of Limpopo's population compared with the national average of 52% (Statistics South Africa, 2012). The province contributes approximately 4% to South Africa's gross domestic product. Unemployment is currently estimated to be about 21.9%, which is lower than the national average of 25.2% (narrow definition).

The three pillars of Limpopo's economy are agriculture, mining and tourism (Limpopo Provincial Government, 2009:13). The province is commonly described as the garden of South Africa, primarily because of its rich fruit and vegetable production. It produces 75% of the country's mangoes, 70% of its tomatoes, 65% of its papaya, 60% of its avocadoes, 36% of its tea, 25% of its citrus, bananas and litchis, and 19% of its potatoes. Over 45% of the more than ZAR2 billion annual turnover of the Johannesburg fresh produce market originates in Limpopo.

Limpopo Province is also endowed with abundant and diverse mineral resources. The world's largest reserves of platinum group metals are found in the central part of the province. Other minerals include diamonds, iron ore, copper and phosphates. Mineral production contributes about 22% to the province's gross domestic product.

With natural beauty, a diversity of culture and abundant wildlife, Limpopo has a thriving tourism industry. It is the home of the Mapungubwe cultural and historical site, the country's eighth World Heritage Site. As the first kingdom in southern Africa, Mapungubwe is said to have been the largest kingdom in Africa lasting for over 400 years before it was abandoned in the 14th century. At the time, Mapungubwe's highly sophisticated people traded with China, India and Egypt. Valuable archaeological artefacts have been discovered at the site including gold statuettes of rhinos and an assortment of gold jewellery. In addition to the world famous Kruger National Park, there are 54 provincial reserves and transfrontier conservation areas in Limpopo. The province also has the largest hunting industry in South Africa with more than 3000 privately owned game farms.

It is evident that the tourism sector plays an important role in the economy of an otherwise primary product-based region, and understanding the contribution of religious tourism in this context could be insightful.

METHOD

The data was obtained by presenting pilgrims with a structured questionnaire. The subsequent sections describe the survey, data analysis and economic impact analysis.

Questionnaire and survey

The survey was conducted through distributing the questionnaires to pilgrims at Moria from 23 to 25 April 2011. All pilgrims who were willing to complete a questionnaire were included in the sample. A total of 850 questionnaires were randomly distributed over the three days – 250 on day 1 and 300 on days 2 and 3. Of these, 800 questionnaires were completed fully enough to be included in the data analysis. Since it is estimated that 1.2 million pilgrims attended the 2011 ZCC gathering at Moria, the sample of 800 can be viewed as sufficient, since Israel (2009) indicates that a sample size of 398 is sufficient for a population of 1 million. In addition, the margin of error (see Gilliland and Melfi 2010) of 800 questionnaires on a population of 1.2 million is calculated at 3.5% (with 95% confidence). This is acceptable, since the margin of error is less than 5%.

The questionnaire aimed to determine the magnitude of spending, which is the main source of economic impact. To achieve this, spending on various items such as accommodation, food, transport and souvenirs was included in the questionnaire. In addition, respondents were asked how many people they were paying for, in order to determine spending per pilgrim. The questionnaire also included a number of demographic questions, which enabled the classification of pilgrims according to their origin, i.e. from foreign countries, Limpopo Province or from other parts of South Africa. Such a segmentation strategy is proposed by Stynes and White (2006) and leads to a more accurate value of spending (Saayman et al., 2006).

Data analysis

The spending per pilgrim was derived from the survey and is indicated in Table 1. Spending per pilgrim is the spending indicated on the questionnaire divided by the number of people that the respondent is paying for. The average spending per pilgrim on the various categories is shown. Not shown in the table, but an interesting observation from the data, is that pilgrims from Limpopo travel in relatively larger groups compared with pilgrims from the rest of South Africa or those from outside the country.

Table 1. Average spending per pilgrim from different origins (in ZAR)
ItemLimpopoRest of SAForeign
  1. Source: The data are authors' own calculations based on survey.

  2. SA, South Africa.

Accommodation20.4320.6113.56
Food60.47139.36167.97
Beverages17.3944.6064.07
Transport64.06230.96423.36
Religious items38.8072.6892.54
Other2.211.363.39
Total203.36509.57764.88

Table 1 indicates that the average foreign pilgrim spends more than their South African counterparts. A closer look at the table reveals that spending on transport is significantly higher, which is to be expected, as they have to travel much further. Foreign pilgrims also spend more on food, beverages and religious items.

It is estimated that 1.2 million pilgrims attended the ZCC gathering at Moria in 2011. The proportion of respondents from various origins was used to determine the number of pilgrims from each origin. The distribution of pilgrims was determined as follows: 50.8% from Limpopo, 44.5% from the rest of South Africa and 4.7% from foreign countries. This distribution of pilgrims is only subject to a 3.5% deviation based on the margin of error for the survey. It is by using these ratios that the total expenditure of pilgrims can be derived by multiplying the spending per pilgrim by the number of pilgrims from each origin. The results of this calculation are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Total spending by pilgrims according to origin (in ZAR million)
TotalsLimpopoRest of SAForeignTotal
  1. Source: The data are authors' own calculations based on survey.

  2. SA, South Africa.

Accommodation12.45611.0120.75924.227
Food36.87574.4449.404120.724
Beverages10.60823.8253.58738.020
Transport39.065123.37323.704186.142
Religious items23.66438.8235.18167.668
Other1.3510.7240.1902.265
Total (ZAR million)124.019272.20142.826439.046

Table 2 shows that although foreign pilgrims spend the most per person, the total they spent is much lower than that of their South African counterparts. This is due to the low number of foreign pilgrims (fewer than 60 000) that attended the pilgrimage. Spending by pilgrims from the rest of South Africa represented more than 50%.

However, not all spending takes place in Limpopo Province. This is especially true for transport, and some adjustment has to be made to account for this. Gelan (2003) refers to the adjustment as the capture ratio, i.e. only spending that takes place within the province should be ‘captured’. If one assumes that travellers fill their vehicles before leaving for Limpopo, and then again when leaving Limpopo before returning home, a 50% adjustment in transport costs for pilgrims from the rest of South Africa and foreign countries should be made. The application of this 0.5 capture ratio influences the magnitude of spending on transport that accrues to the province and therefore also the magnitude of total spending. The ‘adjusted’ total spending is indicated in Table 3.

Table 3. Adjusted total spending by pilgrims according to origin (in ZAR million)
TotalsLimpopoRest of SAForeignTotal
  1. Source: The data are authors' own calculations based on survey.

  2. SA, South Africa.

Accommodation12.45611.0120.75924.227
Food36.87574.4449.404120.724
Beverages10.60823.8253.58738.020
Transport39.06561.68711.852112.604
Religious items23.66438.8235.18167.668
Other1.3510.7240.1902.265
Total (ZAR million)124.019210.51530.974365.508

Economic impact estimation

According to Tyrrell and Johnston (2006:3), economic impact analysis tracks monetary payments as they move through a regional economy. The aim of the analysis is to estimate the subsequent changes that an event has on total spending, output, income and employment in the regional economy. Frechtling (1994) confirms that economic impact studies in tourism determine the effect of a specific tourist activity on the income, employment and wealth of the residents in a specific geographical area. Whether spending by locals (pilgrims from Limpopo) should be included in such an analysis is a contentious issue, since it does not represent new money that flows into the region and only causes a shift in expenditure patterns of locals. Crompton (2006) indicates that local spending can be included (i) when the event caused the residents to stay at home rather than take a trip elsewhere, known as the ‘deflected impact’, and (ii) when a study of the significance of the event is made, i.e. the size and nature of the influence that the event has on local economic activity. This paper aims to determine the latter, and therefore, local spending is included. It is, however, listed separately to isolate the contribution of local spending, i.e. pilgrims from Limpopo, if required.

Spending by the pilgrims creates an initial spending stimulus, which is referred to as the direct impact of the event. Businesses spend the money they receive to buy stock, and these inter-business transactions are the indirect impact of the event. The increase in income as a result of the initial spending stimulus causes consumers to increase their spending, which is referred to as the induced impact of the event. The sum of these three impacts – direct, indirect and induced – equals the total impact of the event.

To determine the indirect and induced impacts, various methods can be employed. Until recently, the most prominent methods used in economic impact studies in tourism were input–output analysis and variants thereof, such as partial input–output models and regional input–output models (see Wagner, 1997; Vaughan et al., 2000). More recently, computable general equilibrium models (CGE) have become popular in events research (Blake, 2005; Dwyer et al., 2005; Dwyer et al., 2006).

Blake (2005) states that input–output type models tend to overstate the impact of an event, especially if it only focuses on production multipliers. CGE analysis is therefore often preferred, but Abelson (2011) casts doubt over its applicability for short-term events, which only cause a temporary increase in spending. At the core of CGE analysis is a social accounting matrix (SAM), which is an expanded input–output model that includes household and other national income data. The SAM allows the simulation of changes in gross value added or income, which tend to be more realistic in estimating the impact of an event (Blake, 2005).

To quantify the impact of the event, multipliers are generated using the provincial SAM of Limpopo Province. The SAM is used, since it is the only of the aforementioned models that is currently available for Limpopo Province. In addition, the event is short-term, and therefore, the increase in spending is only temporary. This makes Abelson's (2011) critique valid, namely that the applicability of CGE analysis for short-term events is doubtful. The Limpopo SAM was compiled by Conningarth Economists and is available from the Development Bank of Southern Africa.3 The Limpopo SAM distinguishes between 46 sectors, 12 household types and four ethnic groups.

The SAM assumes fixed prices in the short run, which may lead to an overstatement of the value of the event, especially on the production side, and the income derived from the event should be more realistic. Therefore, the results for both production and income are included.

RESULTS

The results of the analysis are discussed by assessing the influence of the ZCC pilgrimage 2011 on the production and income of households in the Limpopo Province. Production can be seen as the total turnover that is generated by each sector in the economy, and the increase in production caused by the spending stimulus is summarized in Tables 4 and 5 according to various pilgrim segments.

Table 4. Direct, indirect and induced impacts of spending on production using the Limpopo SAM (in ZAR million, 2006 prices)
SectorLimpopoRest of SAForeign
Direct and indirect impactsInduced impactDirect and indirect impactsInduced impactDirect and indirect impactsInduced impact
  1. Source: The data are authors' own calculations based on multiplier analysis.

  2. SA, South Africa; SAM, social accounting matrix.

Agriculture0.4750.1040.6200.1360.0740.016
Mining0.9410.2981.4020.4420.2060.065
Manufacturing2.8130.5164.2070.7800.5710.107
Electricity and water1.9570.5102.9600.7710.4330.113
Construction1.4590.2322.4990.3970.3860.061
Trade and accommodation49.89412.81087.86122.92011.5713.039
Transport and communication44.0039.94672.91716.48812.6372.855
Financial and business services13.4183.78422.6676.3553.4740.959
Community services1.6770.5772.0310.6990.3600.124
Total (ZAR million)116.63728.777197.16548.98829.7137.339
Table 5. Total impact of the ZCC pilgrimage 2011 on production using the Limpopo SAM (in ZAR million, 2006 prices)
SectorLimpopoRest of SAForeignTotalTotal percentage (%)
  1. Source: The data are authors' own calculations based on multiplier analysis.

  2. ZCC, Zion Christian Church; SA, South Africa; SAM, social accounting matrix.

Agriculture0.5790.7560.0901.4260.3
Mining1.2401.8450.2713.3550.8
Manufacturing3.3304.9870.6788.9942.1
Electricity and water2.4673.7310.5466.7441.6
Construction1.6912.8970.4485.0351.2
Trade and accommodation62.704110.78114.610188.09543.9
Transport and communication53.94989.40515.492158.84637.1
Financial and business services17.20229.0224.43350.65711.8
Community services2.2532.7300.4845.4681.3
Total (ZAR million)145.414246.15337.053428.619100.0

Table 4 presents a breakdown of the direct, indirect and induced impacts on the production of pilgrim spending during the event, according to origin. For ease of interpretation, the results are summarized in sectors of the economy, using the basic sector aggregation as classified by the South African Reserve Bank and Statistics South Africa. It is evident that the direct and indirect impacts of spending by pilgrims from the rest of South Africa exceed those of pilgrims from other origins and that, in comparison, the induced impact is relatively low.

Table 5 shows the total impact of the ZCC pilgrimage on the production in Limpopo Province, whereas Figure 1 illustrates the distribution of benefit across the different sectors. It is evident that the impact of spending by pilgrims from the rest of South Africa exceeds that of any other segment. This is a result of the large number of pilgrims from the rest of South Africa as well as their relatively high average spending, which causes the initial spending stimulus of this group of pilgrims to exceed that of any other group. The result of this for the economy of Limpopo is evident. Furthermore, it is clear that production in the economy increases by more than ZAR400 million as a result of the ZCC pilgrimage. The total production multiplier is therefore 1.17 (change in production divided by the change in spending, i.e. 428.619/365.508 = 1.17), which is quite low.

Figure 1.

Sectoral distribution of the total impact of the Zion Christian Church pilgrimage 2011. This figure is available in color online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/cb

Figure 1 clearly shows that the sectors that benefit the most in terms of production from the ZCC pilgrimage are as follows: trade and accommodation (43.9%), transport and communication (37.1%) and financial and business services (11.8%). It is evident that the sectors that benefit the most are those closely related to the tourism sector. In addition, strong backward linkages cause financial and other business services to benefit as well, whereas the manufacturing sector also derives some benefit (2.1%).

Since the SAM assumes constant prices, the production effect might overstate the value of an event for a regional economy. The resulting household income that is derived from the event is therefore also shown in Tables 6 and 7. Table 6 shows that the income that households of Limpopo receive as a result of the pilgrimage amounts to almost ZAR180 million – an income multiplier of 0.49 (=179.352/365.508). Again, the greatest contributor is the group of pilgrims from the rest of South Africa. It is evident that workers in tourism-related sectors, namely trade and accommodation, transport and communication, and financial and business services benefit most from the pilgrimage.

Table 6. Total impact of the ZCC pilgrimage 2011 on income using the Limpopo SAM (in ZAR million, 2006 prices)
SectorLimpopoRest of SAForeignTotalTotal percentage (%)
  1. Source: The data are authors' own calculations based on multiplier analysis.

  2. ZCC, Zion Christian Church; SA, South Africa; SAM, social accounting matrix.

Agriculture0.2010.2640.0320.4970.3
Mining0.5900.8770.1291.5950.9
Manufacturing1.0311.5400.2102.7811.6
Electricity and water1.1351.7160.2513.1021.7
Construction0.5140.8810.1361.5320.9
Trade and accommodation27.75249.5436.56283.85746.8
Transport and communication20.42233.8515.86360.13633.5
Financial and business services7.86713.2382.00823.11312.9
Community services1.1291.3670.2432.7391.5
Total (ZAR million)60.642103.27715.433179.352100.0
Table 7. Total impact of the ZCC pilgrimage 2011 on household income (in ZAR million, 2006 prices)
SectorTotal impactIndirect and induced impactsTotal percentage (%)
Low-income householdsOther householdsTotal households
  1. Source: The data are authors' own calculations based on multiplier analysis.

  2. ZCC, Zion Christian Church; SA, South Africa; SAM, social accounting matrix.

Agriculture1.4260.0720.4250.4970.3
Mining3.3550.2611.3341.5950.9
Manufacturing8.9940.3902.3912.7811.6
Electricity and water6.7440.4552.6483.1021.7
Construction5.0350.2191.3131.5320.9
Trade and accommodation188.09511.09372.76483.85746.8
Transport and communication158.8468.40951.72760.13633.5
Financial and business services50.6573.02120.09323.11312.9
Community services5.4680.3002.4382.7391.5
Total (ZAR million)428.61924.220155.132179.352100.0

Table 7 indicates how the income benefit is distributed between low-income and higher-income households. Income categories P1 to P5 are considered to be low income, which translates into income lower than ZAR24 000 per year (i.e. less than US$3000 per year). Although these households seem to benefit from the event, Table 7 shows that it is mainly middle-income and high-income households that derive the bulk of the income benefit. However, more than ZAR24 million (or 13.5% of all income) is received by the poor, which is still substantial enough to have a positive influence on poverty alleviation in the province.

DISCUSSION

The first finding indicates that the pilgrimage created a ZAR400 million boost for the regional economy during 2011, which is significantly lower than most of the other pilgrimages discussed in the Introduction section, including the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. This might be attributed to three key factors: the first is that just over 50% of the pilgrims are from the region (Limpopo province), followed by 44.5% from the rest of South Africa and the remainder from foreign countries, which provides the pilgrimage with a strong local content resulting in lower cost (expenditure) to attend.

Second, the average spending per person is very low, and this confirms the notion by Anderson (1999) and Bompani (2010) that many of the ZCC members are low-income earners. The average spending of tourists from neighbouring countries in South Africa during 2010 was approximately R5500, which is much higher than the spending of the average pilgrim. In terms of spending by South Africans at other events, such as arts festivals, the average spending exceeds R1000 per person. Again, the spending by pilgrims is much less compared with the spending at these events.

Third, leakages from the economy are high, which confirms the research carried out by Van Der Merwe and Saayman (2012) on tourism activities in the province compared with other provinces in South Africa. The production structure of the economy is still mainly primary products-based, and this is evident in the low indirect impact, which shows that the link from final demand to industry has not been established. Low manufacturing and wholesale activity in the province contribute to this outflow of money. Therefore, if the regional government wants the region to have greater benefits from the pilgrimage, more should be done to develop industrial activity to allow linkages between retailers and producers to be established in order to curb the outflow of money. As a primary products-based economy with a growing tourism service sector, this would require clear strategies from provincial policy-makers to develop the manufacturing side of the economy.

The second finding that follows from the analysis is that the church's (ZCC) own requirements or rules have a significant impact on the pilgrims' spending behaviour and therefore of the economic impact of the event. These rules include that pilgrims must stay on site during the event. This means that they are not allowed to visit other tourist sites or attractions during the pilgrimage (event) in order to remain focused on spiritual growth. Furthermore, low-cost accommodation is provided on site by the church (in temporary structures, such as tents), and those without accommodation sleep in buses on site. This also applies to meals provided by vendors. It is clear that these rules limit the spending opportunities of pilgrims, as is evident from the low spending per pilgrim.

Other pilgrimages that also attract a large number of low-income earners (e.g. Mecca) derive greater economic benefits because they lack such stringent regulations (described above) (see Vukonic, 1998 and The Economist, 2002). However, despite all the above, the ZCC pilgrimage remains the largest single annual event in South Africa – not only in terms of the number of pilgrims (attendees) but also in terms of its economic value. What does this imply for destination? The event creates some economic benefit for the region, mainly due to the number of pilgrims that attend the event rather than the magnitude of spending per pilgrim. The scope is, however, limited for the region to grow the value of the event, and this is mainly because of the rules of the church (described above) and the relative remote location of the site. On route to the site, there might be opportunities to increase spending and the economic benefit, since the main mode of transport remains road transport. What distinguishes this event from many others is the fact that the church focuses on the spiritual growth of relative low-income earning pilgrims and that there is not a profit motive.

An aspect that is not taken into account in the calculation of an economic impact is that of displacement, which can be seen as a limitation of the current research. In the case of the ZCC pilgrimage, the effect that the pilgrimage might have of discouraging other tourists from visiting the province during the weekend of the church gathering at Moria might be significant. Road congestion, especially through the toll gates, serves to deter travellers to Limpopo Province during the Easter weekend. This negative effect might partially offset the positive economic spin-offs that the province derives from the pilgrimage. Another limitation of the research is that the economic impact is calculated using a SAM, which do not take price increases into consideration and may therefore overestimate the impact of the event.

CONCLUSION

The purpose of this research was to gain greater insight into the regional economic value and spending behaviour of pilgrims in one of the largest pilgrimages in the world and the largest in Africa, namely the ZCC pilgrimage to Moria. The literature revealed that although there has been research on religious events in other parts of the world, this is the first time that a study of this nature was undertaken at the ZCC annual event. The research therefore contributes to the literature on the economics of pilgrimages and to understanding pilgrims' spending behaviour – especially in the African context.

The results from the research show that the magnitude of the event from an economic point of view is important for the provincial economy. Although, in comparison with similar pilgrimages elsewhere, it is relatively small in economic terms. This is caused by several factors that have been highlighted in the discussion above. The most important of these can be summarized as follows: (i) the large proportion of local participants; (ii) the low spending per pilgrim; and (iii) the structure of the local economy. It is noteworthy that these pilgrims are not high-income earners, which implies low spending, and that the event itself (i.e. church regulations) inhibits the opportunity to spend more in the region.

  1. 1

    The ‘Hajj’ refers to the pilgrimage that a Muslim must make to Mecca once in his lifetime. This pilgrimage is part of his religious life and is the major pilgrimage as part of the Muslim religion during the days of Hajj.

  2. 2

    The ‘Umrah’ refers to a pilgrimage to Mecca, although it is not the major pilgrimage during the Hajj. It can be made anytime and is not compulsory.

  3. 3

    The social accounting matrix can be downloaded from the Development Bank of Southern Africa website: http://www.dbsa.org/%28S%28ljt3xv55ifxdjc55r0urey55%29%29/SAM/Pages/default.aspx

Ancillary