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On the road to gender equality in tourism

© Good Travel Guide, November 2021

Gender inequality is a fact, and everybody knows it. In some sectors, the gaps between men and women are blatantly and clearly visible, in others equity is subtly masked. Much has been discussed about women’s rights in the labour market, we are finally starting to realize how important it is to debate about issues that are already extremely rooted in our society and work on solving them. Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is one of the Sustainable Development Goals recognized by the United Nations (UN) and this month the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has launched a new project called Centre Stage to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality in tourism.

The Second edition of UNWTO’s Global Report on Women in Tourism reports that 54% of people employed in tourism are women. Although they make up the majority of the tourism workforce, they are often concentrated in low-skilled or informal work, with the lowest pay and status, often performing unpaid work in family tourism businesses. As a result, women had a reduced capacity to absorb the economic shock brought by the pandemic and were disproportionately affected by it.

Nevertheless, tourism is also a sector that has offered women pathways to empowerment and provided them with livelihoods and a source of autonomy. Indeed, although there is inequality in the tourism sector, there are also better opportunities than in other sectors. First, women in tourism earn 14,7% less than men, while in the broader economy they earn 16,8% less than men. Second, there are more opportunities to access roles of leadership than in other sectors. In fact, 23% of all tourism ministers are women in comparison to only 20.7% of overall ministers.

The UNWTO believes that the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic can be an opportunity to redefine gender balance in the tourism sector. Therefore, they launched ‘Centre Stage: Women’s empowerment during the COVID-19 recovery’ with the Support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany and UN WOMEN.

Four countries will pilot the project in collaboration with their respective National Tourism Administrations (NTA): Jordan, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. Besides the NTAs, there will also be four NGOs/community organizations involved and ten tourism businesses. The pilot will last a year, during which the involved NTAs and tourism businesses will implement an action plan containing concrete measures designed to increase opportunities for women’s empowerment. These measures span all the six thematic areas considered key for gender equality in tourism: employment; entrepreneurship; education and training; leadership, policy and decision making; community and civil society; measurement for better policies. Some of the actions included in the Action Plan are training sessions with a gender focus, personalized guidance aiming to improve working conditions for women in the sector, improvements to the legal framework, and producing data on the effects of the pandemic on female employment in tourism.




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