Women for tourism

Monday, 25 September 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Tourism is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing industries. In many countries it acts as an engine for development through foreign exchange earnings and the creation of direct and indirect employment. 

Tourism contributes 5% of the world’s GDP and 7% of jobs worldwide. It accounts for 6% of the world’s exports and 30% of the world’s exports in services. In developing countries, tourism generates 45% of the total exports in services (UNWTO). 

Tourism has demonstrated its potential for creating jobs and encouraging income-generating activities to benefit local communities in destination areas. However, less attention has been paid to the unequal ways in which the benefits of tourism are distributed between men and women, particularly in the developing world. 

The tourism sector definitely provides various entry points for women’s employment and opportunities for creating self-employment in small and medium sized income generating activities, thus creating paths towards the elimination of poverty of women and local communities in developing countries.

Tourism presents both opportunities and challenges for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The contribution of women in the business world has increased in recent years, although women are underrepresented in management and leadership. In the tourism industry, the percentage of women who work in the industry is high, but their function is dominated by unskilled, low-paid jobs. 

The tourism sector definitely provides various entry points for women’s employment and opportunities for creating self-employment in small and medium-sized income generating activities. Gender stereotyping and discrimination mean that women mainly tend to perform jobs such as cooking, cleaning and hospitality.

Much tourism employment is seasonal and fluctuates according to the volatile nature of the industry. If a strong gender perspective is integrated into planning and implementation processes, tourism can be harnessed as a vehicle for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment at the household, community, national and global level.

At the same time, greater gender equality will contribute to the overall quality of the tourist experience, with a considerable impact on profitability and quality across all aspects of the industry.

However, there are a number of conditions under which this potential can be used more effectively. This requires collaboration of all stakeholders – governments and intergovernmental bodies, local government, industry, trade unions, local communities and their different member groups, NGOs, community based tourism initiatives, etc. 

In the last few decades, the tourism industry has undergone a period of explosive growth, and as a labour intensive industry, there has consequently been a rapid rate of job creation and development. Globally, the tourism industry seems to be a particularly important sector for women (46% of the workforce are women) as their percentages of employment in most countries are higher than in the workforce in general (34-40% are women). 

The numbers of women and their percentage of the workforce in tourism vary greatly between countries – from 2% up to over 80%. Although there were few obvious regional trends it would appear that in those countries where tourism is a more mature industry women generally account for around 50% of the workforce. Of the data available, it appears that there has been a broad increase in the participation of women for tourism industry at a global level. 

(The writer is Director – Sales and Marketing, Lion Royal Resorts.)

Recent columns