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The Role of Religion in the Promotion of Tourism in Kumba

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Religious tourism is a form of travel with the main interest of experiencing religious forms or the products they induce like arts, culture, traditions, and architecture. Two aspects of this form of tourism can be listed as the faith of a tourist who has a spiritual attachment to the destination in line with his/her religious belief, and the new spiritual experience of a tourist, belonging to another belief or a different religion and for whom the destination and the religious practices have the dimension of newness. Despite the importance of such sites to believers, most religious sites in Kumba are affected by insecurity. This has become the order of the day as problems ranging from killing to kidnapping, have become rampant. Such practices endanger the lives of visitors and the host community. Limited transport facilities since there exist only one means to access Kumba coupled with the dilapidated nature of the roads. The study therefore seeks to identify the different religious activities in Kumba, and to investigate the challenges faced in promoting tourism development in Kumba. The study made use of both primary and secondary data that were obtained through field survey, questionnaires and interviews. Data collected were analyzed with the aid of Microsoft Excel Vs 2016 and presented using percentages and tables. Data obtained from the field proved that some challenges hindering tourism promotion in Kumba ranged from lack of funding schemes, poor infrastructures, and outbreak of covid-19 as well as insecurity. The study recommends that, a long lasting solution should be put in place to enhance the problem of insecurity cause by the socio-political unrest. This will solve the problem of fear in the mind of visitors willing to visit Kumba for religious activities. Also tourist infrastructure and transport networks in Kumba should be improved upon in order to enhance travel and destination loyalty.

 KEYWORDS:  Religion, Religious Tourism, Tourism Development, Sustainable Development



1.1 Introduction

This study focuses on the influence of religion on tourism development in Kumba, South West region of Cameroon. This introductory chapter provides background of the research, it presents problem statement, research questions, objectives of the research, hypothesis, scope, significance of the study and closes with definitions of operational terms. Chapter 2 of the research will focuses on conceptual review, empirical review and theoretical review. Chapter 3 focuses on the research method to be used in other to achieve the stated objectives of the study. Chapter 4, of the study will present field finding base on objectives stated in chapter1 and Chapter5 cover the discussion of results link to the work of different authors, conclusion of the study and recommendation gotten from the field, from other articles.

1.2 Background

Mankind from time immemorial travels for different reasons like the quest for food, medication, and knowledge, business etc. one of such travel is based on religious purpose. Religious tourism is mass tourism with the intention to visit places of worship, holy places or shrines and times in search of truth and puzzles in life or quest for knowledge (Adesina,2003).Religious tourism is a form of travel with the main interest of experiencing religious forms or the products they induce like art, culture, traditions, and architecture. Two aspects of this form of tourism can also be listed as: (a) the faith of a tourist, who has a spiritual attachment to the destination in line with his religious belief, and (b) the new spiritual experience of a tourist, belonging to another belief or a different religion and for whom the destination and the religious practices have the dimension of newness. Religious tourism can also be classified as follows: pilgrimages, missionary travels, fellowship vacations, faith-based cruising, crusades, conventions and rallies, retreats, monastery visits and guest-stays, faith-based camps, and religious tourist attraction visits  that leads to tourism development in a particular destination (Rojo,2007).The benefits associated with the development of tourism, and even the religious tourism is not only economic. Tourism and even the religious tourism, also offers the opportunity to reduce prejudices, promote a change of mentality and can bridge cultural differences through contact with other cultures (Khamouna & Zeiger, 1995).

It should be noted that traveling representatives of other faiths are called differently: in Catholicism they are “pilgrims”, in Islam people commit “hajj”, religious tourism in India (and in general among Buddhists) is usually referred to as “kora” (Rojo,2007). There are two main types of religious tourism having their own peculiarities: sightseeing tours to visit monuments, temples, museums; organized pilgrimage tours providing a visit to the world centers of religions, as well as travel to places having the great significance in the genesis and dissemination of a particular religion. In the first case, people seek to pervade their spirit world, broaden their horizons and gain new knowledge about the history of religion. Since the houses of worship in many countries are at the same time their main sights, it becomes obvious the popularity of excursion religious tourism. The second type of tours, most likely, will suit people traveling on spiritual motives, and dreaming to worship shrines (Eidelman & Fakhrutdinova, 2016). Along with Jerusalem Muslims also commit Hajj to Medina and Mecca to see the Al-Kharam mosque and the Kaaba. Every faithful adept of a prophet should visit these Holy places at least once in his life. The peculiarity of religious tourism among Muslims is that it is necessary to visit the shrines before Kurban-Bayram. Muslims perform all the rituals prescribed by the Koran within 10 days on the eve of a religious event (Eidelman & Fakhrutdinova, 2016).

Religious tourism development could be used as an important tool for attracting tourists. According to Marinov (2009) Bulgeria has the potential to become a leading destination for religious journeys as it has a great number of churches, monasteries and religious history. Previous research studies have reported that religion could bring a large number of visitors and therefore improve the local infrastructures and economy (Eade, 1992; Pfaffenberger, 1983). As it brings a large number of hotels and facilitates for both pilgrims and tourists and even airports and roads. Religious tourism organization employs residence and also attracts visitors leading to tourism development. People from the community have jobs in the tourism industry improving their economic situation. Organizations work with the local community and hire local residents it opens employment opportunities up to people to whom opportunities are rarely available. Thus, despite its spiritual association, religious tourism, like any other form of tourism, is also moneymaking venture (Sharman, 2013).

In developed nations, religious tourism particular in Europe is popular among Christian Catholics. As a rule, they go on pilgrimage tours to European cities to admire the beauty of the Gothic cathedrals survived from the Middle Ages. However, the center of the Catholic religion is the Roman Vatican city. The Orthodox believers of Central and Eastern Europe travel to the Holy places of Russia (Diveevo, Suzdal, Vladimir, Moscow, Solovetsky Islands), Ukraine (Kiev PecherskLavra), Bulgaria (VelikoTurnovo), Greece (Athos), Serbia (Vvedensky Monastery) and Montenegro (Cetinsky Monastery). The main centers of Buddhism are Lumbini (Nepal), Kushinagar, Sarnath (India), Lhasa (Tibet), Nara (Japan) and Sri Lanka. In recent years, among the Buddhists, there is a tradition to visit the largest temple complex in Europe located in Kalmykia (Russia). The pilgrimage tourism, including visits to museums, estates, shrines and the study of religion itself, will be perfect for lovers of history, culture, art and holy places. It is a kind of religious tourism consisting of tourist and Orthodox excursions. During the excursions pilgrims can attend divine services, say prayers venerating the relics and famous icons. On the other hand, the host community have benefited from the existence of religious tourism here through complex of services for accommodation, transportation, tourists food, excursion services, as well as tourist guide services and other services offered depending on the tour purpose of the religious visit which improve community livelihood. Religious tourism here plays an important role not only in the economic sphere, bringing income to both the state and the local population of the visited territories (Rubtzov et al, 2016).

In the less developed nations of the world,there are various forms of religious tourism resources/activities in Nigeria, that is generating a lot of income both accounted and unaccounted for tourism stakeholders and related establishments; it has helped in conservation of flora and fauna in some communities in Nigeria like shrines in rural areas have surrounding environment are feared and respected due to their sacredness, while areas like monasteries has abundant flora around its environment which ordinarily would have been cleared or sold for timber (Mason,2003) For instance the Awhum monastery created 1970 with nine monks. The first settlement was preliminary Teachers College (PTC) built in 1957 (which is called old site now) by the Awhum people has attracted lovers and religious travel and has also led to the development of Awhum community in Enugu has been beneficial to Awhum community in the following ways. Academic support, the monastery gives scholarships to the indigenes of the community. Establishment of different businesses like Mt. Calvary sachet water, vegetable oil production, bread, fish farming, palm oil production, poultry, commercial farming, and olive oil production; these businesses have created jobs for the indigenes of Awhum and beyond (Ezugwu,2013). The indigenes gain about 40% of the jobs while 60% goes to outsiders. Commuter bus drivers and motorcyclists (Okada riders) have benefitted immensely, they convey people to and fro the monastery, and villagers established a miniature market called Biafran market few meters away from the gate of the Monastery. The market serves the daily need of the pilgrims and visitors. Items of trade are usually sacramental, foods and drinks, towels, sponge, soaps, slippers, buckets, etc. All these generate a huge source of income to the people of Awhum (Ezugwu, 2013).

Cameroon is not left out of the race in development through religious tourism as the country is a host to many different religious groups. The different religious sites in Cameroon comprises of a variety of religious attractions like churches, shrine. However, despites its low level of improvements to foster tourism development, it still manage to attract quite a good number of tourists across the globe. Like the Saint Thomas Aquinas major seminary Bambwi where priests are trained in the Tubah subdivision of the Northwest region. Buea subdivision in particular is one of the places with a couple of religious sites that attract tourists across Cameroon, Africa and the world such as Ark of God in Bokwango, The Our Lady of Grace Shrine Nevio(LGSN)-SASSE which have all contributed to the development of these areas, construction of roads, houses, it has promoted an entrepreneurships on the inhabitants, improvement in peoples/tourists faith, health and spiritual life through prayers, healings and deliverance.

1.3 Problem Statement

Religious places are supposed to be places with specially designed structures or consecrated spaces where individuals or group of people go to pray/worship and increase their faith. They are supposed to be a natural features or topographical features that may serve as places of worships and are considered Holy. However, looking at Kumba precisely, one is tempted to pose so many questions on the existence of these religious sites with the presence of insecurity as a results of the socio political crisis ongoing in the town of Kumba, insecurity has become the order of the day ranging from killing to kidnapping endangering the lives of visitors and the host community, limited transport facilities since there exist only one means to access Kumba couple with the dilapidated nature of the roads, the level of hygienic conditions is questionable since they are limited agencies and check of sanitation and cleanliness of the town, the fast growing and numerous other religious sites across the country and the continent of Africa. This does not serve to allow tourists leading to declining number of tourists who visit Kumba and subsequently, lowers its contributions to the development of the place (Kumba).

Furthermore, there is location problem. Most of these religious sites are located in not well known inaccessible sites with poor roads and areas of crime waves consequently making the road unsafe for travellers as they fear for the unknown. There is also a problem of transport cost leading to these places, people spend a lot of money on transportation. This makes time and money wasted and reduces the number of long and short distance tourists.

Also there is the problem of lack of attention to the sector by the government administrations which is an adverse factor which confront religious tourism development in Kumba. With such neglect, religious tourism will not grow in Kumba and hence no development or forms of income through it.

Again, socio Political unrest could fairly be described as the biggest challenge that the area faces, especially due to the unrest that has been taking place for the past several years. Revolutions have also caused a sense of instability and discourage religious activities in Kumba and endangering the lives of lovers of religious tourist to visit the town. This has hinder tourism development since the tourism dollars are not incoming as such tourism development is slow down.

Furthermore, although various locals are aware on the significance of religious tourism in Kumba, there is relatively less participation of locals than what is usually expected. It is because of an inability and incapacity to understand the key objectives and concepts of tourism and utilizing opportunities in the domain of providing tourist need.

1.4 Research Questions

1) What are the different religious bodies in Kumba and what are their activities?

2) Does their activities influence tourism in Kumba?

3) What are the difficulties by religious bodies in Kumba?

4) How can the difficulties be overcome such that religious tourism is promoted in the town?

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