Women’s Role in Sustainable Tourism in Sri Lanka

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Women’s Role in Sustainable Tourism in Sri Lanka

With its pristine beaches, mosaic landscape and picturesque topography, Sri Lanka has so much to offer for the eager tourists. Almost 10 years after the end of its civil war, Sri Lanka was named the best country in the world to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet.

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More than ever, Sri Lanka government has identified “tourism” as a priority sector in its mission to achieve economic growth and it is projected to be the biggest revenue generating industry in Sri Lanka by 2025 (Tourism Strategic Plan 2017-2020).

However, mass tourism has its own negative impacts such as environmental and socio-cultural degradation. Thankful to the global awareness on environmental issues governments are now more aware and responsive. Sri Lankan government with its forerunner in tourism, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has resorted to sustainable tourism as an important step towards in preserving and conserving the island’s outstanding natural and cultural heritage to safeguard the destination for our people and our visitors for now and for the future.

Successive governments, while encouraging domestic and foreign investments, promoted sustainable conservation practices through schemes like ‘National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme,

Learn more about sustainable tourism:

Director General of SLTDA, speaks on Sustainable Tourism Programme.html

Why sustainable Tourism?


Commemorating this year’s world tourism day in September 27th, Sri Lanka adapted world tourism day theme which is an important initiative, especially to grass root levels.   This year’s theme ‘Tourism and Jobs: a better future for all’ discusses why tourism’s role in creating decent work is important but often undervalued and segregated, despite the fact that tourism generates 10% of world jobs. Especially women’s role in sustainable tourism is questioned here.

Empowering women to participate in economic development at all levels and sectors is essential to building strong economies and stable societies. In developing countries like ours, where women have lesser access to productive economic work and often greater household responsibilities, the low entry barriers to the sector, entrepreneurship, flexible working hours and  part-time work present potential opportunities for employment. However, the real situation speaks volumes on lack of a sustainable role for women in tourism sector. Even though women form the majority of the population in Sri Lanka, only 30 per cent of economically active constitute women, which mean that the majority of females are economically inactive.

Globally 46 per cent of the tourism industry workforce are women but the lower female LFP in Sri Lanka and lack of gender statistics in tourism sector indicates that in Sri Lanka women are  scarcely involved in tourism sector jobs or if not they are restricted in low-pay, low-skill jobs with restricted upward mobility. There are some significant reasons which affect to the less female participation in the tourism industry. Lack of education opportunities, outdated gender specialized curriculums and resources that may prevent women benefitting from tourism development. Women mainly work in lower-paid clerical and cleaning jobs while men work as hotel and restaurant managers, tour operators and other managerial positions. It may lead to women being concentrated in lower pedestals of tourism value chain and prevent them from joining into managerial positions. Also lack of knowledge on foreign languages, lack of professional knowledge sees lower demand or low cost female labour deffering to affirmative action to include women in today’s sustainable tourism.

On the other hand existing social and cultural situation also prevents women’s meaningful involvement in the sector. Patriarchal values and gender ideologies that adversely impact women are still predominant in Sri Lanka. Negative and outdated perceptions of the society on women being employed in jobs related to tourism has created a stigma around women in hospitality sector and lack of support systems has created a sense of demotivation among women themselves. Dual work of the female, dominant reproductive role, discrimination in the work environment especially in the tourism industry where lack of flexible hours allocated has resulted in less female participation.

There are many vacancies for females in this industry,  tourism industry has the ability to create many formal as well as informal jobs. If we can bring the tourism value chain status of Sri Lanka to the levels of countries like Malaysia, Singapore and turkey it will not only improve female LFP but also impact on poverty reduction in rural/ smaller communities. This can be done in many ways like increasing formal training opportunities, involving females at higher management level, practicing affirmative action to target and empower women, scheduling flexible hours to perform their job at any time, allowing more autonomy in handling dual roles of work and increasing awareness of women’s important role in the economy.

See more related articles:

Global Report on Women in Tourism 2010.html

Women in Tourism - G Adventures.html

Gender Responsible Tourism 2018.html

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