Forum Friday, 08. November 2019 /
New Delhi

Gender and economic policy discussion forum XXXI

Women in tourism: Unpacking the entrepreneurship and livelihood prospects

Jaisalmer, the Golden City, Rajasthan, India . Creator: Ninara. Creative Commons License LogoThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.
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Fri, 08. Nov 2019,
10:00 am – 1:00 pm Save in my calendar
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Part of the series
Gender and Economic Policy Discussion Forum

The forum attempts to unravel the complexities of women’s roles in the tourism sector and the opportunities that are available for them. The discourse would consist of the current trends of participation of women in the sector, the scope, what are the challenges and opportunities for women as formal or informal workers, entrepreneurs; how the tourism sector could play an important role in providing women a secure source of livelihood, independency and identity.

Tourism as an industry is very broad and encompasses a variety of other sectors such as hospitality, travel and accommodations, guide tours, gems and jewelry, food and beverages, textiles, construction and infrastructure projects thus providing employment opportunities in all these sub-sectors and also to others including mechanical, construction, manual laborers. With its recognition as an industry, there is a wide range of income generation opportunities for women in both formal as well as informal sector. Since jobs in tourism are flexible and can be carried out from a variety of locations such as workplace, community and household, it is of great advantage for women as it allows them to take care of their household responsibilities as well.

The 2019 report of UNWTO highlights that the tourism industry added 3.6% to the 2018 World GDP. According to a similar report by UNWTO in 2010, women make up a large proportion of the formal tourism workforce where they are well represented in the service and clerical level jobs. The report also states that women constitute a major share of the workforce in the tourism industry across the world and are also engaged in invisible work in family businesses. The pre-existing gender norms not only affect the supply of labor force in the tourism industry but also affect the nature of demand for it. These gender norms along with cultural practices also lead to segregation of work leading to differences in income of male and females in the industry.

With various schemes of livelihood creation, the State and the Centre have also been trying to induce more and more women in the Tourism Industry. Beginning with the facts and theories on participation of women in the tourism industry to how women entrepreneurship models succeed in enabling and empowering women in the tourism sector, today’s discussion will enhance our knowledge and information on these issues.

In their paper, Women’s Participation and Tourism Industry: An overview, Dinesh Kumar Jaiswal and Mona Jaiswal highlight that tourism industry is one of the major employers of women in India and offers various job opportunities for independent income generating activities and seems to be particularly important sector for women with 46% of the total workforce. The sector has a number of benefits such as it has a wide employment multiplier effect, low barriers to entry and is more likely to employ women and minority groups than other industries. It benefits women as it encourages home-grown entrepreneurship opportunities in handicrafts, food products, tour guiding and homestays. The trend of homestays has gotten more and more popular with international brands such as Airbnb, Oyo, MakeMyTrip and so on. Women have been at the forefront of this homestay movement in Ladakh, Uttarakhand and many other places. Adding to it, the flexibility provided through part-time and shift work also helps in engaging women with household responsibilities. The sector also has ripple effect in the form of better infrastructure for the residing communities. improved water sources, electricity, roads, health facilities and communication create a major difference for the local communities, mainly affecting the lives of women and children. However, this development only when done sustainably along with proper conservation measures will help in raising the incomes and improving lives of the local communities without exploiting the natural resource base.

However, Chinmayi Sarma in her paper, Indigenous Women in Assam: Bearing Burdens of nature, culture and market brings to light the effect the recent neo-liberalism and climate change have on the local communities, mainly women. She emphasizes how the market forces when come to work in the tribal regions affect the lives of these communities and bring in major cultural changes. The paper highlights the impact of consumerism on the ethnic culture in the indigenous areas by taking Chayani Borduar Forest Reserve as an example. It brings to forefront the vulnerabilities of indigenous women arising as a result of the rising pressure of showcasing the primitive modes of operation to the city eye. This has an impact on the overall social structure of these communities as it guides the nature of work for males and females in the community. Additionally, there is also a pattern of migration seen at around popular tourist locations. People, mainly males from around these locations migrate during peak seasons in search of employment and the women and children are left behind. During the times of crisis or natural calamities, it is these women who bear the brunt and hardships of the same, thus re-establishing the gender norms in employment.

Such segregation of work and representation of women in the Tourism sector has had an impact on the women’s status. Jane Henrici explains this with an interesting example in Peru. “Before the tourists came, when a woman wore flowers in her hair in public, it meant she was available to enter into a dating relationship. Once the tourists arrived, they liked to take pictures of the photogenic women wearing flowers. Soon the pressure built for all women in the market to wear flowers-detaching it from its cultural meaning and becoming a pure aesthetic signifier in a touristic frame.”

On the other hand, certain successful entrepreneur models in the tourism sector have helped in empowering women and enabling them to be more independent, earn and thus improve the living conditions of these women. Despite the biases against the service industry during socialism, tourism sector remained attractive and respected within the society. This was largely because given the circumstances, economic sectors like tourism were able to employ large percentages of women and paid relatively high wages. In Sikkim, as stated by Asokan Rajamani in his paper, Empowerment of women through Tourism Industry in Sikkim State, India, tourism is one of the most important sectors and a major means of employment and income. Of the total workforce in the state tourism department, 30.41% were women. Other than this, the state with tourism as its major economic activity provides numerous opportunities for women through adventure and trekking, tea tours, homestays and village/rural tours, cultural/heritage tours, pilgrimage/Buddhists tours, and so on.

However, even in entrepreneurship, there are a number of challenges that women face ranging from balancing personal responsibilities to finance to governance concerns. Meera S in her paper, Challenges faced by women entrepreneurs: with specific references to the Tourism Industry, analysis the severity of certain listed challenges to identify the major ones. The overall lack of infrastructure and security issues add to the list of hindrances women face while entering the sector or while surviving or competing in the sector. Certain gender specific factors such as lack of exposure and mobility have been seen as one of the major challenges.

The Forum will then attempt to highlight and uncover gender concerns at the cusp of livelihood and tourism entrepreneurship models and at the same time how it impacts lives of women those who are directly or indirectly implicated in the circuit of tourism. Further, identifying the policy lacunae, the discussion would conclude with a set of policy recommendations to bring gender in the mainstream tourism sector and help boost women’s participation in diverse roles.


➢ Rajamani, Asokan, Rizal, Praveen,(2013), Empowerment of Women Through Tourism Industry in Sikkim State, India.
➢ Sarma,Chinmayi,(2019), Indigenous women in Assam: Bearing burdens of nature, culture and market.
➢ Hayswal, Dinesh Kumar, Jaiswal, Mona(2015), Women’s Participation and Tourism Industry: An Overview.
➢ Meera,S (2014), Challenges of Women Entrepreneurs: With Specific Reference to Tourism Industry.
➢ Swain, M.B. (1995), Gender in Tourism.
➢ Munshi, Indra(2006),Tourism Pocesses and Gender Relations.
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Venue: Magnolia Hall, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi –110003

Shalini Yog Shah
Deputy Director & Programme Coordinator, Democracy & Society (Gender) and India International (Global)