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One in 10 jobs on the planet is linked to tourism, according to an industry body. Can tourism improve the living standards of women, or the environment? DW spoke to Jane Ashton, director of sustainability at TUI Group.
DW: According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), tourism accounts for 10 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 1 in 10 jobs globally. At the Global Media Forum here in Bonn, you said that tourism can also be a way to empower women. How?
Jane Ashton: In tourism, there is a disproportionately large number of women and youth employed. That is because the barriers to entry are relatively low in this industry. Tourism has sustained growth over a very long period of time, and is forecast to grow further right until 2050. So it's a huge driver of economic development and particularly of female empowerment.
We need improved training and education for women in tourism, so they can develop and take on more management roles within the industry. Together with our partners, we run training schemes in several countries. In one of our hotels in Morocco, for example, 90 apprentices receive vocational training and go to school each year, in a program modeled after Germany's dual education system.
Jane Ashton: 'Tourism is a huge driver of economic development and particularly of female empowerment'
How eco-friendly can the tourism industry be when it flies millions of tourists around the globe each year?
If you look at the total impact of tourism in a destination, you find that the economic and social benefits are high. There is also an adverse environmental impact, and we are working very hard to minimize that. There are many studies which analyzed the total impact - economic, social and environmental - of tourism. By far the biggest drivers of development are the employment and the supply chain. So we are trying to improve employability and ensure that fewer goods and services are imported. When they are purchased locally instead, local communities benefit more from tourism.
Could you give us an example?
In Mexico, Mayan women living in the jungle traditionally have had very little economic empowerment. We have worked with them to develop their jam-making and their honey products, giving them support for health and safety, and advice on accountancy and how to run a small business. Now, these women are producing honeys and jams for a number of hotels up and down the coast of Mexico. They are supplying the tourism industry with authentic and attractive goods, and they also run very successful businesses.
During a panel discussion at the Global Media Forum, it was said that in some Islamic countries, women are discouraged by their families from working in tourism, because the potential contact with foreigners gives these jobs a bad reputation. Is this also your experience?
In some of these countries, for example Morocco or Tunisia, there are fewer women than men working in hotels - and that is a cultural reflection. We develop programs to educate and empower women. Often, they are mainly or exclusively for women, and if not, we make sure there is a 50-50 balance of boys and girls who join those educational programs.
We also have a very detailed code of conduct for all our suppliers, for example hotels. We require them to undergo sustainability certification by third parties. A lot of these criteria relate to fair working practices, non-discrimination and fair contracts, to ensure that women are not discriminated against in tourism. I think that is an important way for tourism companies to drive improvements in the wider industry.
Jane Ashton is Director of Sustainability at TUI Group, the world's biggest tourism operator. The company owns travel agencies, hotels, airlines, planes, cruise ships, and retail stores. It employs 67,000 people globally and generated 17.18 billion euros in revenues in its most recent fiscal year.
The interview was conducted at DW's Global Media Forum 2017, held in Bonn from June 19-21.