Gender and Tourism

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Did you know...?
• In most regions of the world, women make up the majority of the tourism workforce
• Women tend to be concentrated in the lowest paid and lowest status jobs in tourism
• Women perform a large amount of unpaid work in family tourism businesses

As a specialised UN agency in the field of tourism, UNWTO is committed to enhancing the positive impact of tourism development on women’s lives, and, in so doing, contributing to the achievement of the Fifth Sustainable Development Goal – "achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls". In this spirit, UNWTO dedicated World Tourism Day in 2007 to the theme of ‘tourism opens doors for women’, and organised a Forum on Women in Tourism at the 2008 edition of the ITB Berlin tourism fair. Since that year, UNWTO has been working – through its Ethics and Social Responsability Programme - in partnership with UN Women, to bring gender issues to the forefront of the tourism industry, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and encouraging member states to mainstream gender issues in their respective tourism policies.

Global Report on Women in Tourism

The Global Report on Women in Tourism 2010 - officially launched at ITB Berlin in March 2011 - constituted the first phase of this collaboration. As the first attempt to map women’s active participation in the tourism industry worldwide, the Global Report represents a landmark in the field of tourism and gender, focusing on five main areas: employment, entrepreneurship, leadership, community and education. In the context of responsible tourism and local development, this study confirms that tourism can act as a vehicle for the empowerment of women whilst highlighting the remaining challenges for gender equality in tourism.

At the Report's launch event, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai noted that: ‘This report highlights the crucial role tourism plays in empowering women politically, socially and economically. But it makes it very clear that more must be done to close the gender gap, in particular ensuring equal pay for men and women for equal work, raising employment quality and ending all discrimination’.

In October 2011, Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of UNWTO, and Michelle Bachelet, former Executive Director of UN Women, renewed the framework cooperation agreement between the two organizations, committing to build on the findings of the Global Report to generate momentum for tourism’s active contribution to equality and women’s empowerment, as well as to develop a gender mainstreaming strategy for the public and private members of the tourism sector. Activities further included the Women in Tourism Empowerment Programme and the Tourism and Gender Portal.

Image: Former UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai

Action Plan to Empower Women through Tourism

The UNWTO/UN Women collaboration follows an Action Plan with a number of specific activities:

  1. Set up a multi-stakeholder taskforce
  2. Initiate a triennial joint report on the participation and status of women in tourism industry
  3. Establish a portal to serve as a global network for knowledge sharing
  4. Build international awareness about opportunities for women in tourism
  5. Call upon UNWTO members to take vigorous steps to support gender mainstreaming in national development processes, so as to achieve women’s equality in the tourism sector

The first Global Report on Women in Tourism was launched in March 2011. The Tourism and Gender Portal is still in its preparation phase and future planned activities from the Action Plan include the development of a gender mainstreaming programme for the tourism public and private sector and the development of the Women in Tourism Empowerment Programme .  

See also:

For more information on tourism and gender activities at UNWTO please contact