This study investigated the level of community participation in tourism business, assessed the impact of tourism on households in the host community and investigated the factors militating against tourism growth in Ezeagu tourist complex. Data for this study were obtained through personal observations, indepth interviews with staff of the complex and indigenes of the community who are knowledgeable about tourism, and administration of three sets of questionnaires. A set was purposively administered to 146 household representatives of the host community, to collect information on tourism activities, benefits derived from the complex and households’ awareness and participation in tourism business. The second set was administered to all the staff of the complex to collect information on frequency of visitation, categories of tourists that visit the ecodestination, the challenges to tourism growth and solutions proffered by the management to overcome them, while the third set was randomly administered to 50 tourists to get information on tourist attractions, available tourism facilities and infrastructures as well as their adequacy and maintenance, and challenges encountered in the site. Data obtained were analysed using descriptive statistics in form of frequency of counts, percentages, charts and tables. Most household respondents (84.24%) admitted that the host community participates in tourism in the destination. Respondents participate as tour guides (61.15%), in cultural activities and business (10.19%) among others. Some of the cultural activities integrated into tourism include masquerade parade (47.08%), celebration of new yam festival (46.15%) and age grade ogene dance (33.33%). Respondents’ main way of deriving benefits from Ezeagu tourist complex is in form of income generation (75.34%) through transportation business (87.67%), supply of drinks (21.23%) and rental business (5.57%). Income generation peaks between December and February (60.27%) due to festivities. Most of the business operators in Ezeagu tourist complex are indigenes of the host community, thus leakages of resources are minimized. About 20% of household respondents perceived that benefits are derived from the destination through employment. Unavailability of hotel accommodation (50%), inadequate infrastructures and facilities (40%) and government neglect (30%) were identified by staff respondents as the major challenges of tourism in Ezeagu tourist complex. Most tourist respondents (92.00%) considered the infrastructure in the destination inadequate. Provision of standard infrastructure and adequate publicity will bring about tourism boom in the destination, add more values to resources in the site and generate more benefits to households in the host community.
Key Words: Ecotourism, Rural development, Impact, Cultural preservation, Ezeagu tourist complex
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