Middle East Endeavours to Bolster Gender Neutral Tourism Across Employment Sector

The existence of gender-inequality across different sectors has always garnered the attention of journalists and welfare organisations all over the world. But the pandemic has shed a brighter light on how women have become victims of the struggling travel industry. Rising unemployment rates in this sector has pushed the dream of gender neutral tourism even further.

To improve the status of women working in the tourism sector, the Middle East is working to defy social norms and create an empowering environment. The ‘Regional Report on Women in Tourism in the Middle East’ released by the World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO) emphasises upon the region’s efforts to encourage gender neutral tourism.

Despite accounting for majority of global tourism workforce, women are often forced to work under low-income positions. As per UNWTO’s research, fewer than one in 10 travel industry’s employees in the Middle East are women. Although women are better educated than men, they still don’t enter the travel industry due to their engagement in home chores.

According to the report, only 8% of people in tourism industry are women which is half of their contribution in Middle East’s economy. Adhering to the conservative Islamic beliefs, most people consider the Middle East incapable of creating a gender neutral tourism sector.

Speaking about the region’s future plans to encourage the involvement of women, UNWTO’s Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “Tourism has historically provided abundant opportunities for women’s empowerment all over the world. In the Middle East, while there is much progress still to be made, our Member States are leading the charge. As tourism restarts, we will work with them to ensure gender equality remains center stage in their recovery plans, empowering women to become financially independent, challenge stereotypes and start their own businesses”.

The report states that in 2019, 21 percent of regional minister positions were occupied by women. Report claims that a range of policy level initiatives, including Egypt’s Tourism Reform Programme, Saudi’s Vision 2030 and the UAE’s Gender Balance Council have been lined up to improve future of women in travel. There is also good scope for women applicants in senior tourism positions in the coming years

Women all over the world have proven their talents in the travel and hospitality field. Several travel bloggers have been juggling between a desk job and living life with a backpack besides managing their motherly duties. Considering women involvement in the travel industry, Middle East’s initiative towards strengthening gender neutral tourism will create base for a better future of the industry.

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