Last week, one of CABI’s book authors, Stroma Cole, was awarded the ‘Making the Case’ ATHE Award, which is the award for Tourism in Globalisation: Understanding global complexity through tourism. The award was presented at the Association of Tourism in Higher Education (ATHE) annual conference held in Edinburgh on 4 December. The award was for a project Stroma co-ordinates that oversees the partnering of University of the West of England (UWE) graduates with an Indonesian homestay network for mutual development.

Third Year undergraduates in Geography and Tourism Management at UWE can take an International Tourism Development module, which considers the processes, influences and outcomes of tourism-related development in the majority of the world, and how the benefits can be maximised for local people. It addresses a series of complex issues arising from tourism growth, which has given rise to policy and planning concerns within the broader context of globalisation.

On successful completion of the module, the students are offered the opportunity to volunteer on the island of Flores, Indonesia to help villagers develop homestays. Participating students learn basic Bahasa before joining villagers for a four-day workshop on Flores to consider issues such as: land rights, gender equality, agricultural linkages, waste management, disabilities, and basic finance for small businesses. The students then work in the villages to help the local community share knowledge and begin the process of homestay and tourism development.

The potential homestays must meet the agreed basic criteria, which include waste management, working towards gender equality, providing a clean room with basic facilities, etc. Each village is marketed through a funded website, and is given mountain bikes to rent to tourists. The students work with two or three villages for a period of one to two months, meeting together to share good practice and report back to the project co-ordinator.

Through the project, villagers living in poverty have an opportunity to share in the benefits of international tourism. Students learn not only how people build livelihoods in the majority of the world but also how to live in another culture and speak another language. They learn how to train and motivate, and to help manage the villagers’ problems, like recycling. For example, a student built a wooden press to compact plastic waste into bricks. These can then either be used for building public facilities or be taken by tourists to towns that have waste facilities for disposal. This is now being replicated in other villages in the network, thus helping to solve one of the island’s biggest issues: waste.

Local assets, sometimes overlooked by the villagers such as white sand beaches, caves and hot springs, are then highlighted on the website to attract tourists to remote parts of the island, spreading the tourists’ interest in and economic support of these less visited areas. Together, the villagers and tourists connect, share and learn. Without a higher education in tourism this project could not function. It will enhance the lives of many of the poorer villagers, as well as the lives of the students that take this valuable opportunity to work with them.

By Claire Parfitt, Senior Commissioning Editor, CABI

Stroma Cole is a senior lecturer in international tourism development at the University of the West of England and combines her academic career with action research and consultancy. She has published widely, including with CABI: see Tourism and Inequality.

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