Dr Stroma Cole, one of our Directors, was recently awarded an award by the Association for Tourism in Higher Education (ATHE) for tourism in globalisation: Understanding global complexity through tourism. Stroma’s project involves partnering University of the West of England (UWE) graduates with an Indonesian homestay network for mutual development. The students join local villagers on the island of Flores to consider issues such as land rights, gender equality, leakages and linkages, waste management, disabilities, and basic finance for small businesses. The students then work in the villages to help the villagers share learning and begin the process of homestay and tourism development. 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 1-2 months, meeting together to share good practice.
Through the project, villagers, living in poverty, have an opportunity to share in the benefits of international tourism. Students learn not only how people eke out an existence in the majority world but how to live another culture and speak another language. They learn how to train and motivate and to help deal with the villagers’ problems. 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. Students have noticed amazing assets the villagers possess but take entirely for granted such as white sand beaches, caves and hot springs. These are then highlighted on the website to attract tourists to remote parts of the island and spread their spend. Together, the villagers and tourists connect, share and learn. The project will enhance the lives of many presently poor villagers and the students that take the chance to work with them.