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Tourism a vehicle for gender equality and women’s empowerment, UN reports

altWomen make up an important percentage of the tourism workforce, but more work must be done to close the wealth and skills gap between men and women employed in tourism, according to a new World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)/UN Women report launched at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin (11 March 2011).

According to the ‘Global Report on Women in Tourism’ - the first survey to map women’s participation in the tourism sector worldwide - tourism, one of the world’s largest generators of wealth and employment, provides a wide range of income-generation opportunities for women, particularly in developing regions. Women are almost twice as likely to be employers in tourism as compared to others sectors. Tourism also offers leadership possibilities, with women accounting for one in five tourism ministers worldwide. Nevertheless, women are often “concentrated in low-skill, low-paid and precarious jobs”, typically earn “10% to 15% less than their male counterparts” and tend to perform jobs such as cooking, cleaning and hospitality, states the report.

Gladys Acosta, UN Women Director for Latin America, pointed out that women’s contribution to the tourism sector is often invisible. “In the Caribbean for example, 84% of contributing family work – unpaid – to tourism activities is provided by women. This is one of the key areas to address in promoting gender equality in tourism,” she said.

“This report highlights the crucial role tourism plays in empowering women politically, socially and economically,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. ”But it makes it very clear that more must be done to close the gender gap, in particular ensuing equal pay for men and women for equal work, raising employment quality and ending all discrimination”. 

The report shows relevant data in five main areas: employment, entrepreneurship, leadership, education and community, comparable by regions. It provides policymakers and operators recommendations on how to promote more gender sensitive policies and integrate gender equality into corporate decisions, including strengthening the legal protection of women in tourism employment, providing higher-levels of training and greater opportunities for women to develop their businesses. “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,” says the report.


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