While no sector has escaped the wrath Covid-19, few industries have suffered quite as much as travel, tourism and hospitality. And for this sector, the impact falls largely on women. Women make up the majority of workers in tourism sector, which means they bore the weight of un-employment when the industry came to a screeching halt. As a sector with a majority female workforce worldwide, women have felt the economic shock to tourism caused by COVID-19 quickest and hardest.
As the backbone of the hospitality industry, women have a unique role to play, and hopefully lead its recovery. Over 60% of the tourism and travel sector as a whole is made up of women, while women make up more than 50% of all employees in the accommodation sector alone, they are often under-represented in leadership roles.
Often, women who keep our hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related activities running like clockwork, are always contributing to bringing food to the table in their families. They juggle long hours, managing both work and family. During the worst months, the industry has ever seen, many continued to work, because they recognize the vital role that they play. We need to be grateful to every single woman in hospitality industry across the country, that continued to show up and pour their heart and soul into their roles.
On the other hand, women travel statistics indicate that women as consumers are the drivers of the travel economy. They have a higher spending power and this influences travel and other aspects of travel. For instance, women account for close to 85% of consumer purchases while 80% of all travel decisions are controlled by women.
As the local hospitality sector recovers, albeit slowly, we the captains of this industry need to encourage female hoteliers to keep putting one foot in front of the other and aim for those leadership roles.
Data doesn’t lie, as we get out of the pandemic, it is essential to keep a critical eye on statistics related to women even while keeping a foot on the accelerator for growth in the tourism industry. It is up to every woman working in tourism to push the boundaries and achieve more. We definitely need more women in leadership roles.
Tourism has a pivotal role to play in achieving the objectives at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of women of Sustainable Development Goal 5.
I strongly believe that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic present the tourism sector with a golden opportunity to redefine its gender balance.
Women working in the hospitality industry must be given a seat at every table, but beyond that, they must have the space to speak and opportunity to lead, and men must actually listen to what they have to say. I, personally, want to see more women speaking at conferences, serving on advisory boards, and holding leadership positions across tourism sectors, departments, and roles.
The writer is the CEO and Founder of PrideInn Group of Hotels and Chair of Kenya Coast Hoteliers Working Group