The concept of gender discrimination and how it affects women has now been recognised and incorporated in much development work, but it has been largely omitted in the theory and practice of tourism. This is what Equality in Tourism seeks to redress.
Promoting and enabling gender equality and women’s empowerment in tourism matters, whether it is among hotel cleaners in London on the minimum wage, women in rural Africa trying to sell baskets to all-inclusives, or project managers at the heart of planning policies. All women deserve a fair future but are denied this because men control most resources and decision-making processes in tourism. Greater equality, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), is an essential component of a sustainable tourism industry. Yet, as a whole, the sector has paid scant attention to the rights and status of women, especially to those in poorer countries, and to the impact that tourism has on their lives and livelihoods.
Why is a gender perspective important in the theory, development and practice of tourism? Women are an important component of the industry’s workforce. They make up almost half of the formal sector yet they are far more likely than men to be found in lower-paid, unskilled jobs. They also tend to work exclusively with women: such gender segregation affects pay, access to training and, hence, to better paid work. Few women are in management jobs, either in the public or private sector. Finally, much of women’s work is unpaid, with women contributing to family businesses. Where women are excluded from fair inclusion in both the formal and informal sectors, they and their societies suffer.
The lack of equal opportunities for women, particularly in decision-making processes, has a negative impact not only on their personal and professional lives, it is detrimental to whole communities. The absence of women at the heart of decision-making in tourism continues to stall the advancement of women, men and their families, whether in rural Africa or urban Europe.
Equality in Tourism believes that without a rigorous gender analysis in the thinking, development, practice and evaluation of tourism, women will continue to be exploited. In the same way as a human rights approach to business is now recognised as integral to sustainability, so must a gender approach become part of that same agenda. Without a gender dimension and a reframing of policies, any attempts to build sustainable tourism policies and business will be negated.