Sri Lanka's Tourism Industry still lags in Women's Participation, Finds Report

By: GWL Team | Friday, 5 April 2024

Australia’s Market Development Facility’s new report on Sri Lanka highlights the impediments for women participation in tourism industry. It reveals about the influence of societal perceptions and provincial disparities in the country serve as hindrances for women to pursue a career in tourism.

Amongst miscellaneous sectors, tourism caters as the backbone of several countries in terms of driving growth in the economy. Like every other sector, with the advancement of tourism industry, women are playing a significant part in it. Women’s participation in this sector is gradually moving it towards becoming a diverse workplace.

Working in different designations, women occupy 54% of tourism workforce, according to UN Tourism. This percentage exemplifies over half of the ratio of women in the sector. We cannot claim that this industry has acquired success in terms of women ’s involvement but indeed the statistics point towards a gender balanced workforce. However, their numbers in leadership roles continue to be sparse.

Tackling every possible challenge and hurdle in their stride, women are shaping up in tourism sphere with utmost dedication. However, there are factors that are still somewhere slumping women to give their all. These factors not only serve as a barrier in women’s growth but in the progress of the country’s economy as well.

Women’s Involvement in Sri Lanka’s Tourism Industry

A new study has been carried out by Australia’s Market Development Facility (MDF) that highlights the tourism industry of Sri Lanka. The report puts emphasis on various factors hampering women’s participation in the sector across the country. It discloses numerous challenges and opportunities to take into consideration when it comes to women’s involvement.

All the findings of the report were disclosed during an event titled ‘Women in Tourism: Advocate Engage Achieve’ hosted by the Sri Lanka Tourism Alliance (SLTA) in an alliance with the MDF. The event catered as a platform for everyone coming from industry to interact and engage about providing solution in clean debates for women in order to increase their participation rate in the sector.

Additionally, the report accentuated on women’s decision-making processes while having regional level differences. It spotlighted numerous key factors to tackle gender gap in tourism sector. With the stress on the importance of inclusive practices and advocacy programs, the report looks forwards at Sri Lanka’s tourism industry to empower women in addition to addressing the identified barriers to encourage employment in the sector. Few factor that serves as major challenges for women are language barriers and unsupportive middle management in addition to after marriage effects.

Key findings on Women’s awareness on available opportunities

The report reveals about the lack of awareness amongst women for opportunities that are available in the tourism industry. Besides opportunities, there are numerous other concerns that includes negative societal perceptions towards women working in the industry. These concerns not only drag women down but are affecting their growth as well. 44 per cent of women in tourism cite that a male family member (mostly spouse) highlights the influence of societal perceptions.

It is vastly importance to invest in women to tackle gender gap while underlining the need for scalable solutions that focuses on women’s needs and challenges.

Sri Lanka’s female population counts to 11.4 million which comprises of 55 per cent of the employable demographic aged between 20-60 years. Amongst this huge population, less than 10 per cent of women are represented in the tourism workforce from only 30-35% of economically active women.

Furthermore, the report reveals shocking facts about women’s potential. It exclaims that those below 10 per cent of women employed in tourism sector of Sri Lanka possessed academical qualifications beyond Advanced Level (A/L) examinations. This exemplifies a potential blockade to entry for women looking for higher-level positions.

Provincial disparities in Sri Lanka’s Tourism

The Australia’s Market Development Facility report finds provincial disparities with Uva, Central and North Western Provinces that shows a substantial proclivity to join the tourism industry amongst women in comparison to Western Province. It finds that 72 per cent of women rely on newspaper advertisements in the Northern Province that highlights regional variations in ideal sources of information.

Although there’s a positive change in perceptions that has been witnessed amongst women after joining the industry. To support the positive changes, the report emphasises on the need of industry experts, companies and stakeholders to consider business models that focuses on gender diversity and inclusivity in the industry in order to make the country a safe and a vibrant destination for all.