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A womens work is never done: Women's Misinterpreted role in the tourism industry

A womens work is never done: Women's Misinterpreted role in the tourism industry
Author: Kayleigh Ormanroyd
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Key words; holiday decision making, gender issues, tourism marketing, women and tourism

This paper discusses the importance women have in tourism as an industry and how this is misinterpreted. In the 19th century women were forbidden to travel let alone to make decisions on destinations to visit whether it be alone or with others. In this century women take over the leisure market and are travel agents' primary target market Collins and Tisdell (2002).
Household tourism decision making shall also be discussed showing key roles in the decision making process and power relations within a couple choosing a holiday together. The portrayal of women in tourism brochures shall also be discussed. This paper includes a case study on the South Pacific and how the female inhabitants are portrayed against their true identities. It is concluded that the decision making process in tourism products and services are split between genders but when broken down into different factors it is apparent that women take a leading role alongside outdated stereotypes still being apparent in the 21st century.

Second class citizen, housewife, cook, cleaner and stay at home mum are often how women are perceived even to this day; these stereotypes date back to the days when women were excluded from voting and only good enough for jobs such as secretaries or nurses. Since then women have fought back for equality and succeeded. It is even sometimes argued that men are now perceived as second-class citizens with women becoming ever more powerful this is sometimes known as the power shift in relationships and is reflective of modern day societal changes.

Changes in the dynamics of family decision making have become apparent in recent years, particularly the increased influence of women in the process which leads to the question; how important are women in the tourism industry?

Images of women in tourism literature is a thoroughly research topic full of controversy, many destinations use the image of women to increase tourist numbers and neglect the fact that women have a bigger influence upon tourism than just their image. This also portrays a false destination image. It is logical to expect that tourism adverts are now targeting a generation of better educated and independent working women so you would think marketing strategies would portray them more realistically in their newly defined positions which is apparently not the case according to a study by Chafetz, Lorence and Larosa (1993) who feel that images of women in mass media continue to be portrayed in their 'traditional stereotypical' roles for example domestic, sexy, helpless, noncompetitive, shy and passive.

Women worldwide have high involvement in tourism whether it is through being hosts, visitors or employees in the industry many people neglect this fact which has left it open to discussion, Castelberg-Koulma (1991, p. 198) identifies the importance of Greek women's involvement in tourism related activity through the establishment of co-operatives as an important breakthrough toward over throwing the stereotyped picture of the set against the sexualized object of the western female tourist. Castelberg-Koulma (1991) also states that not only does the formation of women's co-operatives give Greek women a position within the process of tourism development, but they are also 'a new form of encounter between hostess and guest'.

In light of the literature reviewed in this topic the case study below on the South Pacific shows an example destination that has suffered prejudices towards their indigenous female population

The south pacific accounts for only 0.15% of the worlds international tourist arrivals but this is enough for their economy to rely upon tourism. When it comes to the portrayal of South Pacific island people in tourism, it has been made aware that they suffer from an image problem which is often promoted by their own governments but mostly by overseas marketers and tour operators. Brochures show scantily clad passive Polynesian women which make these women appear willing and obtainable. These marketing images are seen as successful because they entice tourists to come and 'consume' the 'products' shown in marketing literature. These portrayals limit understandings of Pacific women almost suggesting that these women include the fulfillment of sexual fantasies.

Building bridges between old and new gender perspectives

This case study represents how women in the South Pacific are misinterpreted and often used for their image to promote tourism; female figures are seen as making tourist areas more attractive to people visiting giving them false hope that women are offering something that they are not which is reflective of many places worldwide. This concept is often known as staged authenticity; showing the tourist something that is of no real reflection of a destinations true culture therefore creating a false image. The South Pacific is just one of many places that receive this sort of misjudgment of women. Simondson (1995) argued that "tourist brochures, and the imagery contained within them, are examples of the traces left by power, and can be considered the visual evidence of the points of contact between superior and inferior social groups that exist in a power relationship".

This paper represents how women worldwide within the tourism industry either participating in tourism, being hosts, indigenous women, employees or even women featured on tourism marketing literature are increasingly misunderstood and portrayed in ways that reflect old fashioned laws and discrimination that have long been abolished. Women have fought back over the years for an equal existence and as Prakash (1992) reinstates women are key players in family decisions who are attentive to detail in promotional messages.

It is recommended in the future for women to not be manipulated in tourist marketing material and that tourist brochures are monitored and portray local women in their correct roles, a right which men have far more access to

Aitchison, C, C. (2005). Feminist and gender perspectives in tourism studies. Tourist studies. 5 (1), 210-211.

Apostolopoulos, Y, Sonmez, S, Timothy, D (201). Women as producers and consumers of tourism in developing regions. Westport: Praeger publishers. 93-107.

Quinn, D, Mottiar, Z. (2004). Couple dynamics in household tourism decision making: Women as gatekeepers?. Journal of vacation marketing. 10 (2), 149-151.