September 27 - World Tourism Day

“A door open for women”


Today we celebrate the twenty-eighth edition of World Tourism Day, established by the United Nations with the purpose of drawing public attention to certain aspects of the industry. This day gives labor organizations an important opportunity to raise awareness about the specific concerns of workers, and especially of women workers.



The theme chosen for this year’s edition is “Tourism opens doors for women,” and thus it is fitting to analyze the focal points of the problems faced by women workers in our industry.


It is a well-known fact that in most countries around the world, the number of women who work in hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars, nightclubs, amusement parks, casinos, travel agencies, tourism planning companies, and other activities connected with tourism is 50 percent higher than in other activities.


In order to promote tourism, advertising quite often exploits the image of women, while tourism industry employers exploit women as workforce.


In some restaurants, the criteria for hiring women depends more on physical appearance than on professional qualifications and skills, and in some cases women are required to wear clothing expressly designed to attract male consumers.


Women generally have the lowest skilled jobs. Although there is a great number of women working in this industry, few of them occupy management positions, and therefore they are the first victims of rationalization policies implemented by employers. Moreover, studies agree that, in average, women are paid 20 percent less then men for the same jobs.

Women working in hotels and restaurants are often forced to work unsuitable and sometimes flexible hours, with rest days different from the general working population. Under such conditions, combining their professional, family, and even social lives becomes a daily challenge for women, especially when their partners do not share parenting responsibilities, and women, in addition to their paid work, have to take on the full responsibility of educating their children and taking care of household tasks.


Women have less access to professional training. This training should in many cases be aimed at preparing them to hold positions of responsibility or, simply, at improving their occupational skills.


Sexual harassment in the workplace is a risk that primarily affects women, especially young women, if they hold low-skilled jobs and are in contact with costumers or clients. The fear of “making trouble” and the possible consequences it could have for their jobs, sometimes makes it difficult for women to report cases of sexual harassment.


Labor unions now have a number of international instruments available to deal with gender issues in the hotel, restaurant, and tourism industry:


  • ILO Convention No. 100: concerning equal remuneration.

  • ILO Convention No. 111: concerning discrimination (employment and occupation).

  • ILO Convention No. 156: concerning workers with family responsibilities.

  • ILO Convention No. 171: concerning night work.

  • ILO Convention No. 183: concerning maternity protection. 

  • ILO Convention No. 172: working conditions in hotels, restaurants and similar establishments.


Also, in the drafting of national legislation and collective bargaining agreements there are increasing efforts to incorporate the guidelines contained in ILO recommendation 179 and the conclusions of the Tripartite Meeting on Human Resource Development, Employment and Globalization (2 - 6 April 2001).


Today many labor organizations worldwide are promoting awareness about the opportunities that tourism generates, but also about the awful, poorly paid, stressful and morally harassing working conditions currently suffered by women around the world.


From Buenos Aires, Norberto Latorre
© Rel-UITA
September 27, 2007


Photos: Nelson Godoy



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