Our Director Dr Lucy Ferguson was recently invited by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to prepare a presentation for an event on Women in Tourism in Johannesburg, South Africa (8 October 2014). The conference was organised by the National Department of Tourism in partnership with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa. The event was part of the Women in Tourism forum, which aims at engaging women on issues such as economic empowerment – addressing funding constraints, establishment of support structure and incentives for women, and creating a platform to celebrate women achievers and the status of women in the tourism sector. The Women in Tourism forum is supported by the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Ms Tokozile Xasa, and represented by a coordinating committee which comprises of women in both the private and public tourism sector.

Lucy’s presentation provided a global perspective on some of the issues of gender inequality in the tourism sector. She highlighted some of the areas in which South Africa is leading the way. For example, in the South African tourism industry, 45% of professional level workers are women, compared to 36% worldwide. She also set out the complementary policy framework for promoting gender equality in South African tourism, such as the African Union/NEPAD Tourism Action Plan and the National Responsible Tourism Development Guidelines for South Africa, both of which cite gender equality as a fundamental component of the development of sustainable tourism. It will be interesting to follow the outcomes of the conference to see if any collaborations between the South African National Department of Tourism and UNWTO emerge.