New report from World Tourism Organization highlights cultural challenges and economic opportunities
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — When the Chhetri sisters founded the Three Sisters Adventure and Trekking Company in Nepal in 1994, they faced challenges of discrimination in a deeply patriarchal society, where restrictions on women’s mobility render most single women housebound and most married women unemployable.
Nevertheless, they persevered in their quest to meet the demand for women guides in an otherwise male-dominated sector in the Himalayas. Five years later, they registered Empowering Women Nepal as an NGO.
The Nepali company now trains local women as guides and porters. The sisters currently employ one hundred women in their trekking company, who earn an average of 120,000 rupees per year (US$ 1,709) once they become experienced guides. With a clear vision of their mission, the sisters conquered local skepticism and broke down entrenched gender stereotypes through sheer determination.
Due largely to their efforts, women now make up between five and ten percent of guides and porters in Nepal, offering tourists greater choice and advancing the empowerment and economic status of Nepali women.
The Three Sisters story is outlined in a new report from the World Tourism Organization that highlights opportunities for the empowerment and economic advancement of women, especially in developing countries, where female workers are often concentrated in low-skill, low-paid and precarious jobs. In general, women ear about 10 t0 15 percent less than male counterparts in the same jobs.
Women’s contributions to the tourism sector are often invisible, according to Gladys Acosta, UN Women Director for Latin America.
“In the Caribbean for example, women provide 84 percent of contributing family work – unpaid – to tourism activities. This is one of the key areas to address in promoting gender equality in tourism,” Acosta said.
The ‘Global Report on Women in Tourism’ is the first survey to map women’s participation in the tourism sector worldwide. 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; more than in any other branch of government.
“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,” according to the report.
Some of the key findings:
1. Women make up a large proportion of the formal tourism workforce.
2. Women are well represented in service and clerical level jobs but poorly represented at professional levels.
3. Women in tourism typically earn 10 percent to 15 percent less than their male counterparts.
4. The tourism sector has almost twice as many women employers as other sectors.
5. One in five tourism ministers worldwide are women.
6. Women make up a much higher proportion of own-account workers in tourism than in other sectors.
7. A large amount of unpaid work is being carried out by women in family tourism businesses.
Increase awareness of the important economic role that women play in the tourism industry. Strengthen legal protection for women in tourism employment; such protections include minimum wage regulations and equal pay laws. Improve maternity leave requirements, flexible hours, work-from-home options, and arrangements for childcare.
Facilitate women’s tourism entrepreneurship by ensuring women’s access to credit, land and property as well as providing appropriate training and resources to support women’s enterprises.
Promote women’s participation in tourism education and training and improve the educational level of women already working in different areas of the industry through a targeted and strategic program of action.
Support women’s tourism leadership at all levels: public sector, private sector, and community management by establishing leadership programs at the national level and in large and small-scale tourism enterprises.
Read the full report below