Women’s empowerment during the COVID-19 recovery

Centre Stage Project | Background

Tourism has the potential to contribute towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Achieving Gender Equality and Empowering all Women and Girls.

5. Gender equality

The Centre Stage Project bases its activities on the Action Plan of the Global Report on Women in Tourism, Second Edition, which focuses into six main areas of strategic importance for women’s empowerment within the tourism sector: Employment; Entrepreneurship; Education and training; Leadership, policy and decision-making and Community and civil society.

The project has seen UNWTO support countries to implement the recommendations of the report, bringing together the public sector, tourism businesses and different tourism organizations and NGO’s in each country, to use the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to provide opportunities for women’s empowerment through tourism.

The project has been piloted in 4 UNWTO Member States in collaboration with GIZ, BMZ and UN Women.


  1. Facilitate women's access to tourism workforce;
  2. Create an institutional culture that promotes the role of women in tourism;
  3. Provide the necessary conditions at the institutional level to facilitate gender analysis in tourism development.

  1. To encourage a business environment focused and led by women;
  2. Address the gender dimensions of informal employment in Tourism;
  3. Articulate a territorial coordination in tourism and gender;
  4. Encourage leadership and knowledge exchange regarding tourism production;
  5. Consider the migratory axis in tourism;
  6. Address the axis: water, gender and tourism.

  1. To promote tourism entrepreneurship in terms of gender;
  2. Strengthen the diversification and distribution of tourism with a positive effect on women;
  3. Address the axis of violence against women and tourism;
  4. Address the gender dimensions of informal work in the tourism sector.

  1. To strengthen tourism policy based on standards that address the economic empowerment of women;
  2. To address violence against women in Tourism;
  3. To address the gender dimensions of informal tourism work.


Jordan has one of the lowest percentages of female labor force participation in the world, with a majority of working women concentrated in the service sector. Tourism is a strategic sector for Jordan, however women's participation in Tourism is low with Jordan ranking within the lowest 5 of the Middle East Region with the fewest female tourism workers. 

Prevailing views and perceptions are some of the main barriers that prohibit women's participation in tourism in Jordan such as:

- Women are the primary care-givers for families;

- Married women do not work as well as their male counterparts;

- In hotels, job promotions could mean mobility to another hotel chain or abroad, therefore, married women could not move.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, a slight improvement and increase of the women workforce has been reported in the accommodation and food service sector. According to data from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, in October 2021 women's participation in registered activities accounts for 10%. The International Labor Organization estimates that in Jordan, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, women accounted for 3.27% of the workforce in the accommodation and food service sector. Across other tourism activities there is a minimal participation of women, a situation that prohibits the diversification, innovation and sustainable development of tourism.

In Costa Rica, as many countries in the world, a large number of women work in economic sectors related to tourism employment such as: crafts, gastronomy, operation and tour guide, lodging and other related services, as well as others that indirectly are related to tourism thanks to the great capacity that this sector has to generate productive linkages with others, almost naturally. 

According to the International Labor Organization, the percentage of female tourism workers in Costa Rica following the COVID-19 pandemic remains high (62% of the total workforce) and a higher percentage of men have lost their jobs (-23.7%) than women (-19.3%). However, the pandemic has caused gender inequalities to increase in the areas of education, employment, gender-based violence and women's health. This setback in terms of gender equality not only affects tourism but also it strongly impacts the sustainable development of other sectors and accentuates the challenges that previously existed for women in tourism in Costa Rica.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, women represented 57.25% of those employed in the accommodation and food service sector in the Dominican Republic, according to ILOSTAT. This percentage however, while above the global average, includes a large amount of women working in low-skilled, low-paid work with few opportunities for career advancement.

In particular, women tourism workers in the Dominican Republic are often engaged in employment linked to domestic and care work. While men, on the other hand, are distributed across a wider range of tourism occupations with more possibilities for career advancement. Regardless of the type of work performed by women however, the priority of the Centre Stage project is to ensure that tourism employment provides them with decent working conditions, opportunities to rise in the occupational pyramid and to access decision-making spheres in the workplace.

A high proportion of women are working in tourism in Mexico (52% according to ILOSTAT). Women are mostly engaged with tourism as entrepreneurs (71% versus 28% men according to ILOSTAT) and a large proportion of them are working as family workers (73% versus 26% men according to the findings of ILOSTAT). The vast majority of women face significant barriers such as access to financial resources and technology, informal employment, unsafe working environments and gender-based violence. These barriers reduce the possibilities for women to advance within the tourism value chain. Addressing the gender pay gap (37% on average, taking into account the main top travel destinations) as well as the prevention of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in the workplace are considered key factors for women's empowerment in Mexico. Around 84% of businesses across the country have a zero-tolerance discrimination policy, but only a few are linked to tourism and are implementing mechanisms that specifically promote women's empowerment and gender equality.

Logo | Centre Stage: Women’s empowerment
German Cooperation
UN Women

Related Links

Twitter UNWTO
Instagram UNWTO
Facebook UNWTO
LinkedIn UNWTO
Flicker UNWTO