The Tourism Industry – On a Roll

Consistent growth and increasing diversification has given the global tourism industry the reputation of being one of the fastest growing economic sectors worldwide. An ebullient World Tourism Organisation reports (UNWTO) that international tourism is very much on the rise -the number of international arrivals grew from 25 million in 1950 to 842 million in 2006 representing a 4.6% annual growth rate. The income generated by these arrivals surpassing the growth rate of the world economy, grew at a rate of11.2% during the same period, reaching around US$ 735 billion in 2006.

While in 1950, the top 15 destinations of the world absorbed 88% of international arrivals, in 1970 this proportion dipped to 75% and even further to 57% in 2005, reflecting the emergence of new destinations, many of them in developing countries. The UNWTO forecasts that international arrivals are expected to reach nearly 1.6 billion by the year 2020. Of these, 1.2 billion will be intraregional and 378 million will be long-haul travellers.

Continuing world prosperity has clearly been the main driver behind this boom. Asia and the Pacific stand out as the motors of international tourism expansion and the tourism juggernaut continues to move notwithstanding manmade and natural crises. Emerging markets and developing economies especially in Asia, tourism promotion by national governments especially in developing regions, increased investment in infrastructure, marketing and advertising, development of domestic markets, liberalisation of air transport, growing intraregional cooperation and a growing number of public-private partnerships are key factors in this expansion in the tourism business.

So what does this growth mean for women – particularly for women in destinations of the global south? To what extent do they benefit from this phenomenon? Has tourism opened doors for women? Has its unstoppable growth contributed to women‘s empowerment?