In an article titled, ‘How South Africa earned huge foreign exchange from Joshua’s Birthday bash’, the report divulged that thousands of foreigners who would have visited Nigeria for the annual celebration on June 12th were redirected to South Africa who cashed in on the opportunity to welcome visitors from more than 10 African countries and project a positive image in the wake of the recent xenophobic violence.
According to Hallmark, when the event was held in Nigeria last year, more than 5,000 foreign pilgrims made their way into the country. Based on the statistics from the Nigerian Immigration Service, it was revealed that out of every 10 foreign travellers coming into country, six of them are bound for The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), which attracts 50,000 worshippers weekly.
Months after the backlash by Nigeria and other African countries against South Africa following the xenophobic violence on foreigners in the country, a tourism analyst who spoke with Hallmark said that the birthday was deliberately used by the country as a measure to mitigate the negative impact the attacks may have had on its tourism market.
According to Mr. Tomi Akingbogun, President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), it is regrettable that despite the impact of The SCOAN towards the growth of religious tourism in Nigeria, Pastor Joshua has been virtually neglected by the tourism board and ministry.
“Nigeria may have lost huge foreign exchange due to the relocation of the event but the government must learn to appreciate some of its greatest assets,” Akingbogun stated, adding that the building collapse at The SCOAN last year should not lead to Joshua’s ‘victimization’.
The event, which which was tagged ‘A Celebration Of Love’, was organised by relatives of the 84 South Africans who lost their lives in the infamous collapse of a guesthouse at Joshua’s church premises last year and survivors of the incident
Thembelihle Mamafa, speaking on behalf of the family members, stated at the event, “We know what happened to the building. They tried to bring him down but TB Joshua – you with God are the majority. The more the attack, the greater your strength”.
Surprisingly, Joshua has not been seen in public since his crusade in Mexico last month, giving rise to speculations he may be planning a permanent relocation abroad.