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Towards a gendered political economy of water and tourism

Cole, Stroma; Ferguson, Lucy

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Stroma Cole
Occasional Associate Lecturer - FET GEM

Lucy Ferguson


© 2015 Taylor & Francis. In many holiday destinations, the tourism industry exerts an enormous strain on water supplies. This generates a range of social problems, not least because local inhabitants often have to compete with the tourism sector over the access, allocation and use of water for their personal and domestic needs. Nevertheless, there has been very little academic research on the link between tourism and the impact of water scarcity on destination populations in developing countries. While there is a wealth of literature on gender and tourism development, such research has tended to focus on employment relations and tourism policy and planning, neglecting ecological issues such as water. Drawing on original ethnographic research conducted in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, in 2013, this paper makes a preliminary attempt to address this gap in the literature by developing a gendered political economy approach to water in tourism development. Three key themes are identified from this research: the salience of intersectional inequalities of gender, class and nationality, in particular the different experiences of Nicaraguan women, Costa Rican women and women from the Global North; how the role of social reproduction is vital to understanding gender and water in Tamarindo due to enduring assumptions about women's perceived responsibility for water; and the gendered dimensions of conflicts over water. Such conflicts are highly gendered and contribute to reshaping of power relations in this international tourism destination. In conclusion, we argue that our findings demonstrate the need to pay attention to both intersectionality and social reproduction, as well as to identify a future research agenda for developing a gendered political economy approach to tourism and water.


Cole, S., & Ferguson, L. (2015). Towards a gendered political economy of water and tourism. Tourism Geographies, 17(4), 511-528.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Deposit Date Jun 16, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jan 31, 2017
Journal Tourism Geographies
Print ISSN 1461-6688
Electronic ISSN 1470-1340
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 4
Pages 511-528
Keywords gender, water management, power relations, gendered political economy, intersectionality, social reproduction, Costa Rica
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Tourism Geographies on 31 July 2015, available online:


Towards a Gendered Political Economy of Water and Tourism 05.05.pdf (469 Kb)

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