Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Sun March 08 2015

Women Are Making a Mark on Global Tourism

Tour Operator | G Adventures | Janeen Christoff | March 08, 2015

Women Are Making a Mark on Global Tourism

On International Women’s Day, it’s important to take a look at the impact of women in the travel workforce.  Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, worth $7 trillion in today’s global economy. It generates 9.5 percent of global GDP and supports more than 266 million jobs – and women make up the majority of this workforce. In fact, tourism has almost twice as many female employers as other job sectors.

G Adventures and its nonprofit arm, Planeterra, work every day to empower women and break down gender inequality in the workforce. They operate programs around the globe that are dedicated to training women and creating employment opportunities that foster financial security in the tourism sector.

As travelers, we can also do our part in helping break down barriers for women around the world. By traveling sustainably and supporting women while abroad, Americans can help close the gender gap and improve quality of life for women.

We spoke with Adrienne Lee, program manager at Planetterra, about just how important it is to foster gender equality and travel responsibly to make a positive impact.

How has tourism positively impacted your life? 

Tourism has allowed me to see so many other parts of the world, exchange culture, meet incredible people, and see firsthand some of the truly inspiring, empowering and innovative initiatives that are happening around the world to tackle big issues such as gender inequality, climate change and access to justice. 

What makes your job as program manager at Planeterra so fulfilling? 

There are so many reasons. For me, it’s a chance to be able to mesh my two greatest passions — impact investing and travel — it’s an incredible opportunity. To be able to see one catalyze the other, creating sustainable community development programs and livelihood generation through tourism, is very rewarding. The people you meet on the road, the conversations you have, the stories of adversity that has been overcome and the initiatives that individuals and organizations implement on behalf of their community is so inspiring. It’s humbling to work in this field.

How can Americans support women when traveling abroad?

Americans can seek out organizations while traveling that support women. For example, looking for cooperatives that sell handicrafts made by women, or women-owned micro and small enterprises to support be it local restaurants or tours or souvenirs. There are often nonprofit/cooperative/social enterprises around if you are looking out for them. Being a customer is a great way because you are directly supporting someone’s income and helping them to provide for their own families and improve their quality of life. Certainly supporting programs like Planeterra with donations is helpful also, as we direct funds towards women’s initiatives in many cases, as that is a strong focus of ours. And you can look out for tour and travel companies that have initiatives supporting women’s rights, equal opportunities, and education either through their business model or through supporting non-profits in destinations.

What are some of the initiatives at Planetarra that support/empower women?

We initiate, invest and incubate a number of social enterprises, cooperatives and nonprofits worldwide to bring more communities into the tourism value chain to create a more inclusive economy. To name a few, our first ever enterprise that we started is the Women’s Weaving Cooperative in Ccaccaccollo, Peru.

Planeterra and G Adventures have also recently launched a clean cookstove project working with Maasai women fundis (experts) in the Rift Valley to build culturally relevant clean cookstoves in to people’s homes.

Last year, we launched a training program with women survivors of trafficking in Kathmandu, Nepal. Planeterra worked with our ground partners to develop a dumpling-making course and traditional Nepali lunch with our travelers. Guests learn from the survivors how to make dumplings. It also gives these women an entry into a formal workforce surrounded by a supportive community.

There is also the new Women on Wheels project in New Delhi. This program trains local marginalized women to become certified commercial chauffeurs, while offering female (solo) travelers a safe transport option.

For the newly launched Women on Wheels, how do you find and train the women who work within this program? 

Our local partner provides an 18-month training program for poor urban women in Delhi, teaching the beneficiaries how to drive in a car simulator, on road driving, English, hospitality, communications, booking reservations, CPR, First Aid, self-defense, and then works with the women to obtain their professional chauffeur license. Women are introduced to this program through a number of non-profits, charities, and outreach workers that are working with direct women services. The training allows these women to access job opportunities and often become the primary breadwinner in their family.

Will these women earn enough to support families? 

Yes, definitely. The majority of women that join this program come from families that live on $1.50 - $3 a day. Once employed as commercial drivers, women earn salaries between $100 - $165 a month, leading to more than a 200 percent increase in their family incomes. The majority of women who have completed this program become the principle breadwinners in their families. They are financially independent and empowered to make their own decisions. Many women decide to continue their studies and are able to support education for their children and other family members.

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