March 8 is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme, #BalanceforBetter is a timely slogan within the tourism industry. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5 states we should work towards, “achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030”. Ambitious? Yes. Feasible? Absolutely, and the tourism industry has the potential to lead the way. Achieving gender equality in the tourism sector will require both industry leaders as well as travellers to play a pro-active role. Step one is to be informed. We’ve come up with a list of five questions we hear often and provided our responses: we encourage you to learn and share these facts with your friends, colleagues, and the skeptics!

1. Why is it important that the tourism industry focus on gender equality? Tourism employs approximately 1 in 10 people globally. Tourism is the fastest growing economic sector in the world and the world’s second largest employer! Tourism’s influence is powerful globally–it’s not just one specific geographic region or highly-visited country. Tourism’s global force means it cannot be kept out of the conversation around gender equality if we wish to achieve SDG #5 by 2030.

2. What challenges are being faced by women in tourism? Women make up the majority of the tourism workforce in most regions of the world, yet women also tend to make up the majority of lowest paid/status jobs in tourism. This is true in both high-income and low-income economies.

3. How does this involve me/my organization? How you spend your money matters. For example, in Fiji, in 2005, every US$2,000 spent on tourism led to the creation of more than two new jobs.

4. What’s the potential for the tourism industry to be a leader in the #balanceforbetter campaign? Tourism is an exciting sector for women: according to the latest UNWTO Global Report on women in tourism, women are nearly twice as likely to be entrepreneurs in the tourism sector than in other sectors! Currently, women hold more ministerial positions in tourism than any other sector and women make up nearly 70% of the total tourism workforce. Not only is tourism one of the largest industries, it’s already leading the way as an employer of women.

5. It’s great to support gender equality, but how does this tie into economic benefits? Globally, the tourism industry is growing faster than individuals can be trained to enter the workforce and it’s clear that “business as usual” won’t be enough. Supporting alternative training programs to account for family caretaking and maternity leave would greatly increase the capacity of the tourism industry to contribute to strong economic growth.

What you can do as a tourist

Armed with this information and already planning future trips, what can you do as a tourist to actively support gender equality? Being an active supporter of gender equality doesn’t require you to visit far-away places or have a senior position in a large corporate firm (although we cover options for those things too!) In fact, we’ve made a list of some powerful ways you can support #balanceforbetter within any budget and wherever you live.


  • Visit before you leave for a trip and be assured that when you book your stay, you’re supporting workers and their opportunity for a better life.
  • Support women-owned tourism businesses: invest in organizations who have women at the forefront making strategic decisions and holding leadership positions (like GOOD Travel: run by women and training the next generation!)
  • Join trips that have been actively designed to support and connect women. For example, our friends at Wise Steps Travel have just launched a trip called A Woman's Journey giving travellers the opportunity to exchange knowledge with local female leaders as well as participants from all over the world.

During your travels

  • Bargain fairly: women make up about 60% of the informal sector. As a tourist, consider the impact your bargaining has on the income of hardworking artisans and be willing to pay for quality products.
  • Request a female tour guide: in many countries, women face significant discrimination and the field is male-dominated.
  • Speak up! When you stay in a woman-owned hotel or eat at a woman-owned restaurant and you enjoy it, share your opinion on travel sites such as TripAdvisor. Spread the word that more women in the tourism business results in a better tourism experience!

Long-term support

  • Donate to women’s rights organizations, particularly ones who advocate for improved working conditions for women such as The Legal Aid Society, La Vie Campesina, and Equality Now.
  • Donate to organizations supporting skills training for women in tourism. One example is Peruvian Hearts, a U.S. NGO that helps young women in Peru pay for their University fees. Many of these young women are interested in a career in the Peruvian tourism industry.
  • Contact your representatives in government and let them know that fair wages and accessible, universal child care are important issues to you and the women who work in the service/tourism industry.

GOOD Travel’s role/viewpoint

While tourists play an important role, tourism organizations have a responsibility to demonstrate strong leadership in the promotion of gender equality. So while we encourage everyone to make gender equality a priority, we want to hold ourselves accountable first! Here are some of the current steps we’re taking, and those we’re keen to pursue:

What we do:

  • We support organizations such as Peruvian Hearts who promote the education of girls interested in the tourism industry in Peru.
  • We work in partnership with organizations like Every Black Girl Inc. to support their goals of making international travel a reality for young women.
  • We use advocacy to encourage tourists to consider how their actions can support gender equality in the tourism industry.
  • We actively seek out women-owned businesses and research an organization’s management structure to identify organizations that lead GOOD efforts.

What we plan to do:

  • We’d like to serve as consulting body for multi-national organizations interested in influencing policies in the tourism industry.
  • We’d like to support national ministries of tourism on how to ensure gender equality is a key issue for their government, and how tourism can play a significant role.

The “Diversity Matters” report by McKinsey & Company in 2014 found a clear link between leadership diversity and financial performance: companies who were identified as the most gender diverse in their leadership were 15% more likely to achieve financial returns above national industry median. Similarly, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index highlighted that gender equality is strongly linked to the economic performance of a country.

It seems fitting then, that the tourism industry steps up and as a collective, asks “how might we accelerate the industry’s drive towards equality?” We’re convinced that the tourism industry could be one of the first–and certainly one of the most powerful forces for gender equality in the world with the support of GOOD travellers like you, and industry leaders eager to achieve financial success and social impact.

Want to learn more? Start here!

Photo Credits: (1) Wonder Woman: Sebastian Vital via Flickr (2) Hand and Globe: Clay Banks via Unsplash (3) Hospitality Worker: chuttersnap via Unsplash (4) GOOD Travel Cofounders and GOOD Baby, Emma: Denise Raymond (5) Woman and Globe: Slava Bowman via Unsplash

July 23, 2023
5 min read