Religious Pilgrimages in South Africa: A Catalyst for Sustainable Tourism and Local Economic Development


  • Linda Nompumelelo University of Zululand



sustainable tourism; sustainable development; religious pilgrimages; pilgrimages; community;


Sustainable tourism and local economic development as a mechanism for religious pilgrimages in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). This is particularly pertinent for religious pilgrimages in KZN province which boosts historical landmarks and pilgrimage destinations. Pilgrimage tourism and several other forms of tourism related to it have significant affinities to the tenets of sustainable development. The purpose of this paper is to examine the complications that could arise from religious pilgrimages' potential as a form of travel that, once implemented, would be beneficial for sustainable tourism and local economic development (LED). This paper further intends to assess the pilgrimage destinations to be viewed as a mechanism for local economic development. A quantitative research design was employed, as the nature of this research necessitates the use of numerical data and descriptive statistics to draw conclusions. A standardised questionnaire was used to collect data from 410 respondents selected using a convenience sampling technique from different pilgrimage destinations in KZN, South Africa. Descriptive, bivariate, and multivariate analyses were conducted using IBM’s SPSS version 28 software. The pilgrims and local communities’ perceptions of socio-economic contribution indicate that the availability of tourism facilities might be perceived as a socio-economic contributor to pilgrimage destinations. The findings further reveal that African religious pilgrimages can be sustainable and be a local economic development catalyst in KwaZulu-Natal. The study recommends that the South African National Christian Forum (SANCF), in collaboration with the South African government (national and provincial), develop an operational plan to provide business education, entrepreneurial skills, and relevant support to local communities surrounding religious pilgrimages or religious destinations, to empower them to contribute to the development of the local economy. This will assist to reduce South Africa's high unemployment rate, particularly in less developed regions.