Women around the world are featured in a new report that showcases the opportunities, challenges and experiences of women in tourism, to highlight the socio-economic benefits and empowerment it provides.

The report ‘UNWTO Global Report on Women in Tourism’ was co-authored by Dr. Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore from the Department of Tourism Sport and Hotel Management, and Griffith Institute for Tourism, who was appointed for the Asia and the Pacific research component.


Travelettes of Bangladesh, image: Dhaka Tribune

The report examines the key factors that contribute to gender equality in the tourism sector and identifies ways to mitigate inequality and harness tourism’s potential to advance women’s empowerment. Its purpose is to measure progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number five – gender equality and empowering women in tourism.

The report was released in November at a launch event at the World Travel Market in London, and it was commissioned jointly by UNWTO, UN Women, World Bank Group, Amadeus and BMZ implemented by GIZ. It explores tourism through five thematic areas; – employment; entrepreneurship; education and training; leadership, policy and decision-making; and community and civil society.

Dr. Khoo-Lattimore’s examination which included a comprehensive literature review, is partly from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and case studies from Malaysia, Bangladesh, Singapore, Japan, Nepal and India, highlighted that women represent more than half of the tourism workforce in the region.

Dr. Khoo-Lattimore explained that women make up the majority of the tourism workforce worldwide and the gender wage gap is narrower in tourism than it is in the broader economy at the global level. However, tourism employment is comparatively lower-paid for both men and women than average wages across the broader economy.

“Tourism directly supported 47.9 million jobs in Asia and the Pacific (2.8% of total employment) in 2015 and is expected to provide 59.3 million jobs by 2026 – even more if jobs indirectly supported by tourism are considered, the sector represented 292 million jobs, according to UNWTO/GTERC.”

“The APEC study also identified it’s more common to find women in self-employment roles in developing economies in Asia and the Pacific than in developed economies, according to 63% of APEC respondents.”

“While tourism is growing and it provides opportunity, unfortunately in Asia gender inequalities affect women’s experiences of tourism. These inequalities vary across cultures and traditions, and are often perpetuated by restrictive gender norms and gender roles – that is, the social norms that dictate what is considered appropriate for women and men.”

“For example, in Nepalese tourism, the majority of women’s work is concentrated in seasonal, part-time, low-skilled and low-paid activities such as retail, hospitality and cleaning, where they work as maids, cleaners, cooks, masseuses, or even street vendors,” said Dr. Khoo-Lattimore.

“More recently, tourism work in Nepal has been transferred to women’s domain, but this is all limited to the stereotypical roles of women in patriarchal societies – women are in charge of providing accommodation and food, operating handicraft shops and running tea-houses.”

“In Bangladesh, Travelettes of Bangladesh, a group comprising over 24,000 girls who aspire to challenge societal norms that hold that Bangladeshi girls should not travel, seeks equal rights by being seen on the road together and they arrange organised trips all over Bangladesh.”

“In Japan, Mie Prefecture hosted the Women in Tourism Symposium in conjunction with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism (IYSTD2017). The symposium was attended by over 100 participants featuring women leaders in tourism.”

“This was unique for Japan, as it’s not common for Japanese women to break into these male-dominated occupational categories, and there is currently no policy in Japan on gender equality,” said Dr. Khoo-Lattimore.

“A key finding of the report is the need to promote gender equality in tourism as a serious and substantive issue in Asia and the Pacific – and the promotion of more successful entrepreneurial role models is critical to break the perceptions of women as only mothers, wives and homemakers.”

“It’s encouraging to see the opportunity provided by tourism but it’s difficult to generalise and say conditions have improved for all women in tourism over the last decade, as there is still work to be done to ensure equality for women in managerial roles and the removal of traditional cultural gender bias.”

This research is a follow-up report to the first edition (2009-10) that provided a baseline on the situation facing women in tourism around the world. It provides an extended geographical scope to the first report and it equips tourism practitioners with many examples of best practice equality in tourism to guide tourism leaders.

Dr. Khoo-Lattimore explained there are only a few policies or practices aimed at empowering women in tourism in Asia in the Pacific. In particular, Japan has proposed a substantial inclusion of women’s empowerment and gender equality considerations in the draft conclusions of the upcoming G20 Tourism Ministers Forum.

“However, this initiative remains the exception rather than the rule across Asia and the Pacific and, therefore, a key recommendation for the region is to increase gender considerations across tourism policy and foster a heightened focus on women’s empowerment amongst policy-makers.”

For more information about gender equality and best practice for women in tourism, please read the report below or contact Dr. Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore.


See Report: UNWTO Global Report on Women in Tourism: Second Edition


Research Team: This report was produced by Dr. Lucy Ferguson with support from three regional experts: Dr. Brenda Boonabaana for the Africa region, Dr. Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore for the Asia and the Pacific Region and Dr. Daniela Moreno Alarcon for the Latin America and the Caribbean region.