Stroma Cole reports from her recent travels.

If it seems like I‘ve been quiet for a while it’s because I’ve been busy!

As part of my academic role I attended the Association of American Geographers (AAG) annual meeting in Washington D.C., where I presented my work on gender, tourism and water. This extended the work already published (Cole, S. 2017 Water worries: An intersectional feminist political ecology of tourism and water in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, in Annals of Tourism Research.) with recent quantitative survey findings. We conducted 240 surveys in Labuan to add quantitative data to my qualitative data. HWISE (Household Water Insecurity Scale) is an internationally used, cross culturally validated scale to measure experiences, causes and outcomes of household water insecurity. The original scale was piloted in 28 locations including Labuan and now consists of 12 questions, and is being used for monitoring and evaluation efforts by Oxfam, WaterAid, Action Against Hunger, Last Mile Health, and Water Witness International. Despite over 20 sessions given over to tourism at AAG, and each session having 3-4 presenters, mine was the only paper on gendered aspects – it really is still a neglected topic!

The quantitative research backed up much of my qualitative work: women worry about water the most, and this depends on the source they use, the types of storage they have, and their economic situation. Not all the quantitative data supported my qualitative work. It was interesting that some men responded to the survey, claiming responsibility for household water – perhaps because they pay for it. These men did not report feeling ashamed from the lack of water – which might have been because those conducteing the survey were women, and men wouldn’t admit feeling shame to them. The survey doesn’t have anything about tourism, e.g. proximity to hotels, or work in tourism, in it, so I have applied for a grant to explore HWISE+Tourism to further explore the links. I’ll keep you posted.

The great news is that my policy report , which was also produced in Indonesian and which I presented to a multi-stakeholder forum in Labuan, has had an impact! The local government has introduced differential, progressive pricing for the water consumed by hotels and standardised the hours that each district receives water. This answers one of the most frequent complaints from women who had to constantly wait for water, not knowing when it would flow.

Group photo of participants at the Japan Health Risk and Disaster conference
Straoma (centre) at the Health, Risk and Disaster meeting in Fukashima, Japan

Following Wahington D.C. I was invited to a Health, Risk and Disaster (HeaRD) meeting in Fukushima, Japan. Again I was presenting my Labuan research, but this invite resulted from the perspective that the overuse of water by the hotel industry is a slow onset disaster with consequences for pyscho-social health. Constant worry has multiple health implications, as I discovered at the meeeting held eight years after Fukushima’s triple disaster. The meeting was fascinating, and I learned so much about the consequences of worry on health, with strong links to health problems including diabetes and heart disease. In this particular case however, the data shows far worse outcomes for men than for women, as one of the medics at the meeting said, “when women are told a problem is developing they do something about it, when men are told they carry on as normal”. The participants were fascinated to hear about my work even if I was the only partipant considering slow risk disaster or tourism.

Next stop, Azerbaijan – where I will be delivering a Keynote adress at the 7th Interdisciplinary Research in Tourism Conference . My topic Gender, Tourism and the SDGs follows my and Daniela Moreno Alarcón’s recently co-published paper in Journal of Sustainable Tourism (No Sustainability For Tourism Without Gender Equality).

If you are thinking I am flying around the world too much – I know! But I have also turned down fully paid trips to Bali and Kulkuta. For the former I am delivering my keynote by film, and the second I am attending virtually. I am cognisant and am trying to limit the travel, but until there’s a significant culture shift in academia, flying is part of the job.

I look forward to reporting back from future events I attend. If you wish to get in touch, please email me.