Create environment for women to enter tourism industry - IFC official | Sunday Observer

Create environment for women to enter tourism industry - IFC official

Program Manager of the Women in Work Program in Sri Lanka, IFC’s largest country-based gender program, Carmen Niethammer said with its diverse attractions, Sri Lanka has the potential to attract more women tourists to the island, and it has not fully tapped the scope of the vast market. She called upon industry stakeholders to bring in reforms to create an environment that would attract women into the lucrative tourism industry.

“Currently only a small percentage of the women labour force is engaged in the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. A change of attitude is vital to get rid of the negative perception that tourism is not for women,” Niethammer said.

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry which is a male dominated industry, currently accounts for a small  percentage of the women’s’ labour market. According to the World Bank study, female labour force participation declined from 41 percent in 2010 to 36 percent in 2016 and that Sri Lanka has the 14th largest gender gap in labour force participation globally. However, it notes that men’s participation remained over 75 percent during the same period.

“Sri Lanka should be a place that attracts women tourist and engaging more women in the country will help put a stop to hiring men from overseas to the industry,” Niethammer said.

She said today around 80 percent of the travel decisions are made by women. Whether married, single or divorced women are leading the way in the travel industry.

Studies reveal that female travellers are bold, independent and keen to explore new experiences. They have their say where and when to take a break, how to get there and many prefer to go solo.

However, the scenario in Sri Lanka is appalling with women still lagging behind in the labour force and vital decision making bodies such as the legislature. Despite being the dominant gender accounting for over half of country’s population females comprise less than five percent in the national legislative body and less than two percent in local government.

According to a recent World Bank (WB) report, Sri Lanka lags behind in women’s participation in the workforce, especially compared to other middle-income countries. The Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP) rate in Sri Lanka declined from 41 percent in 2010 to 36 percent in 2016. Getting women to work will need embracing comprehensive and multi-pronged strategies that require collaboration between various stakeholders, including the private sector, according to the WB report.

According to the Department of Census and statistics the estimated economically active population was about 8.5 million in the third quarter 2017 of which 63.1 percent were males and 36.9 percent females. The economically inactive population is about 7.3 million out of which 26.2 percent are males and 73.8 percent are females.

The highest participation rate for male is reported from age group 35—39 years (96.4%), while that for female is reported from 40—44 age group (49.7%).

A top official of Sri Lanka Tourism noted that women tend to keep away from joining the tourism industry mainly due the low status about the profession in society,

“This is a wrong perception about the industry which has vast scope for a professional career,” he said.

General Manager of Jetwing Colombo Seven, Rookamanie Fernando said she moved up to the current position through sheer determination and hard work which paid dividends.

“From low-end to high-end was my pinnacle walk. Ayurveda was my hobby and I brought into company and it has now bloomed,” she said.

Mayor-elect for Colombo Rosy Senanayake said it is dismaying to see that the local governing councils cannot have the stipulated 25 percent quota for women. However, Sri Lanka will have 25 percent women represented in local councils in the future.

“It was mind-blowing to me when I was judging a rising star competition, to note that the best bartender at a rest house at Ambewela at one time, was now holding a top post in a five star hotel in the country.

“‘Even after three weeks of the completion of the polls it is hard to get the councils working. I am not sure whether the elected members will take oaths even on March 10. I was firm with the Elections Commissioner about the implementation of the quota for women,” Senanayake said.

However, she also noted that she does no see women fighting for women’s rights in the country.

“Where are the women. Most graduates are women and where are they. In Sri Lanka, women do not vote for women,” she said.

“I think a did a better job as the High Commissioner to Malaysia than a man,” Senanayake said.