At the end of last year, Chair and Trustee Dr Angela Kalisch gave a guest lecture to the Amity Institute of Travel and Tourism in Kolkata on ‘Tourism and Equality in a Post-Covid 19 World’ and the Role of Tourism Practitioners.

Kalisch begins by outlining the vision of Equality in Tourism. She states the organisation’s aim to reach ‘sustainable and equitable tourism through the transformation of gender relations in destinations and tourism organisations’. Defining key terms is an important tool for understanding feminist goals and aims. The Collins Dictionary dictates equality as: ‘the same status, rights and responsibilities for all the members of a society, group or family.’

Crucially Kalisch highlights the differences between true equality and attempts of performative feminism by the tourism industry that do not tackle the patriarchal centre of the issues. Often through objectification and tokenism, women are given platforms in the industry but, it is pivotal to question who is deciding who can access to these platforms and whether they are simply perpetuating a patriarchal system. The patriarchy is a system that upholds gender inequality and where men hold the primary power, authority and social privilege excluding women from the same power.

Dr Stroma Cole, 2018 outlines gender as a ‘system of identities that determine an unequal distribution of resources, work-decision making, political power and the entitlements of rights and obligations in both the public and private spheres’ (Cole, 2018). Women’s empowerment is an important step to balance out inequalities in society, Cole (2018) lays out that the fundamentals to empowerment as agency, autonomy, and authority.

Unfortunately, The tourism industry is making incredibly slow progress in terms of gender equality. Between 2013 and 2018 representation of women in the industry only increased by 1% to just 20% and it is reported that the overall gender power gap will take 108 years to close.

Slow progress for gender equality in the industry

It is paramount that the effect Covid-19 has had on gender equality is considered. Unemployment is rife with 100-120 million jobs in the tourism industry at risk. Women are 1.8 times more likely to be cut from a job than their male counterparts. In addition, women are carrying out more domestic workload than before the pandemic, increasing to three times the amount of domestic work than men.

The Role of Practitioners

Kalisch suggests that industry practitioners can have a large role in promoting and ensuring gender equality. Governments have a huge power to create diversity, first and foremost by including women from all backgrounds in key decision roles, supporting women’s organisations in the informal tourism sector and providing care support packages for care responsibilities. We need to demand policy and strategic commitment at executive levels from businesses and encourage recruitment of women into positions where they are underrepresented like marketing and tech.
We are seeing practical examples of gender equality in tourism however, to ensure Covid-19 does not negatively impact the progress already made we need industry practitioners to stand up against patriarchal standards of inequality.