Women's participation in the tourism sector of the Middle East is steadily increasing, a recent study by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Ministry of Tourism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has revealed.
The study titled 'The Regional Report on Women in Tourism in the Middle East' and compiled within the framework of the Saudi Arabia G20 2020 Presidency, highlights the progress and opportunities to further advance gender equality in the sector.
The new publication, which complements the second edition of Global Report on Women in Tourism emphasizes the increased female participation and evolving role of women in the Middle East society. The report shows the positive policies adopted in recent years while signaling, yet to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 in the Middle East.
According to the report, 8% of people employed in tourism in the region are women compared to 16% in the overall economy of the region. At a global level, 54% of people employed in the tourism sector are women compared to 39% in the broader global economy. It further says that though women are well-educated, the share of their participation in the tourism workforce is still at halt.
Women's access and continued role in leadership positions in ME are hindered by the concerns of balancing social life and legislative barriers. However, data shows 21 percent of regional tourism minister positions were run by women in 2019.
Advancement in the public and corporate domain is being made through deliberate strategies in ME to increase women's representation in various positions with policy level initiatives such as Saudi's Vision 2030, Egypt's Tourism Reform Programme (E-TRP) and the United Arab Emirates' Gender Balance Council. The UAE's Gender Balance Council was initiated in 2015 to reduce the gender gap across all government sectors and all decision-making positions. The Egypt Tourism Ministry launched the E-TRP in 2018 in order to create a sustainable tourism sector with international standards.
"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 that gender equality remains centre stage in their recovery plans, empowering women to become financially independent, challenge stereotypes and start their own businesses." said Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary General.