Women power the tourism workforce

In South Africa, 09 August holds great significance for our nation as we celebrate women’s achievements on this day. It is also a day to remind us of gender equality. The tourism sector* has been a female-dominated environment for many years, with Travel Management Companies leading the way. For example, at Rennies BCD Travel, over 80% of our workforce is comprised of females, and our senior leadership team consists of 95% women managers.

It is no surprise then that tourism and women play an essential role in achieving the commitments of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – including commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The latest UNWTO World Tourism report confirms:

  • In the Tourism industry, women account for 54% of employees compared to the 39% female employment rate in the broader economy.
  • Women are well represented in service and clerical level jobs but poorly represented at professional levels.
  • Women in tourism are typically earning 10% to 15% less than their male counterparts.
  • The tourism sector has almost twice as many women employers as other sectors.
  • One in five tourism ministers worldwide is a woman.

The good news is that overall, the tourism sector positively promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the gender wage gap is narrower in tourism than it is in the broader economy at the global level.

While in some countries, the share of women’s employment in tourism roughly mirrors the percentage of women’s employment in the broader economy, there are sizeable differences in others. Tourism often serves as a first entry point to the world of work. Many of the positions held by women are service or clerical jobs, characterised by long working hours, subcontracting, and seasonal variations in employment.

Yet compared to other industries, travel and tourism has the most growth potential, so as you get back to travel planning, do it sustainably. By more carefully considering where and how you spend your money, you can affect the change you wish to see. Be mindful of supporting businesses that support women.

*The term tourism sector includes those industries that typically produce characteristic tourism products and activities. It is equivalent to the more colloquial term ‘tourism sector.’