HERITAGE RESOURCES IN ABIA STATE AND THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS TO SUSTAINABLE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT
Abia state is endowed with numerous natural, cultural and historical resources. The resources have received little or no attention from both the government and the local communities. There is no comprehensive brochure of the heritage resources in the state. There are no proper documentation of the heritage resources and their origin. The robust heritage resources that have the potentials for tourism destinations are not harnessed for tourism. These factors prompted the investigation of heritage resources in Abia State and how they can aid in sustainable tourism development. The study has four research objectives and was guided by four research questions and two hypotheses. The work is a survey research that involved two methods of data collection (qualitative and quantitative) research methods. The qualitative method involved the collection and recording of evidences through key informant interview and in-depth interview while the quantitative method involved the use of questionnaire. The in-depth interview was carried out in two ways, unstructured and semi- structured. The semi- structured interview was guided by inter-view schedule. The sample size was determined by adopting sampling with constant sampling fraction. The sample size for the research was sixty (60) informants and one hundred and fifty (150) which were drawn from the study areas and from the Abia State ministry of culture and tourism. Purposive sampling technique was used to determine the sample selection. The finding from key- informant and in- depth interview were used to support the hard data generation from questionnaire distributed and retrieved. The hard data was analyzed using simple percentage and relative frequencies. Eighteen heritage resources were identified, 43.3% of which were of natural origin while 56.7% were of cultural origin. About forty-eighty (48.2%) of the heritage resources in the state had early been identified and documented while 52.8% were yet to be identified and documented by the government. The sites had the potential of accommodating the numerous wishes of their stakeholders and the various expectations of different tourists. The identified level of acceptability of tourism development from the various communities was 72.7%. Over eighty percent (80%) of the heritage resources were yet to be developed for tourism only about 20% had been developed. Majority of the studied communities were willing to collaborate with the government or independent developers for the sustainable tourism development. Over Eighty- seven percent (87%) of the communities were willing to accept infrastructural development in the potential tourism destinations. Ibiniukpabi sacred groove could be harnessed for both heritage and ecotourism. Development and management principles determined for the sustainability of the identified sites were environmental compatibility, social acceptability and economic benefits. Recommendations were made base on the findings.