The UN World Tourism Organisation recently released a Discussion Paper on the occasion of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017, asking for comments from a range of key stakeholders in the field. Equality in Tourism submitted a detailed response, analysing the approach to gender issues taken in the paper and providing recommendations for improvement in this area.

We commend the inclusion of SDG5 as a key theme in the Discussion Paper, but have a number of concerns with the Discussion Paper in its current format. In particular, we point out that this report fails to grasp the importance of SDG5 for achieving all other development goals, as outlined consistently across UN policy discourse.

The UNTWO paper also only discusses a relatively narrow aspect of gender equality issues in tourism – employment and decent work. In particular, it depicts a limited framing of gender issues as related to economic empowerment, leaving out discussions of political empowerment and broader questions on structural inequalities.

Regrettably, the paper does not demonstrate an understanding of gender analysis or gender inequality and – as such – it is not clear how tourism is meant to contribute to achieving SDG5, nor the role of institutions in working toward this.

Finally, it is well documented that gender equality cannot be achieved without dedicated resources. In order to make progress in this area, a budget is required in order to advance tourism’s contribution to SDG5.

Building on these points, Equality in Tourism’s response recommends the following actions by UNWTO in order to address the gaps in its work on gender equality and to increase the potential of tourism to contribute to SDG5:

  1. Establish a dedicated budget for gender equality and SDG5 within UNWTO to ensure that necessary actions and programmes can be carried out. This should be done in collaboration with specialists in gender and tourism in order to ensure that UNWTO work matches international norms and standards on gender equality. This is in line with the UN System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-SWAP).
  2. Update the Global Report on Women in Tourism 2010. This was originally intended to be a triennial report. As such, it was expected that this report would have been updated in 2013 and 2016.
  3. Review the literature and best practice on gender equality in tourism and update the Discussion Paper accordingly, drawing on the available expertise and knowledge in the field.

The response has been acknowledged by UNWTO and they have suggested that comments will be incorporated into the report as much as possible. We hope that this Discussion Paper represents an opportunity to re-open a conversation with UNWTO on gender equality and women’s rights in the tourism industry.

You can read the full UNWTO paper here and our response here.