Tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world and is expected to continue to grow over the next decades. According to WTTC (2013) the travel and tourism industry generated more than 8% of the EU’s GDP in 2012 (with a total contribution of USD 1,390.8 bn) and provided employment to some 9.1% of the total labour force (creating 20,020,500 jobs); both contributions are forecast to rise to more than 10% in 2023. Worldwide, these numbers amount to more than 100 million jobs and to a USD 6.5 trillion contribution to the global economy. Therefore, tourism is notably an increasingly important source of income and employment opportunities, often regarded as a panacea for underprivileged groups, such as women (de Kadt, 1979). In fact, this is a female dominated industry, since their participation in tourism employment is higher than in the workforce in general (Hemmati, 2000; NDP-GEU, 2001).

However, the nature and conditions of the employment generated should be considered, since it often reinforces inequalities (Jordan, 1997; de Kadt, 1979). Employment in the tourism field is often concentrated in typically female domains, which are undervalued, since tasks rely on skills considered natural, such as taking care of others or preparing meals (Purcell, 1997). Tourism jobs tend thus to be dead-end jobs, offering few chances of career progression (Hemmati, 2000). Thus, it is a sector with a marked horizontal and vertical gender segregation (EC, 2004; Parrett, 2004; Hemmati, 2000; Costa et al., 2011). It is also a sector that tends to exploit traditional gender roles in recruitment and that very often relies on stereotyped images of women to attract tourists (Jordan, 1997; Hemmati, 2000; Swain, 1993).

In Portugal, results from the first study developed by the research team – Gentour I – indicate that although women hold the majority of higher education degrees in tourism studies, only a few of them reach top-level positions within organisations (Costa et al., 2011a e 2011b). In fact, some studies provide evidence that companies which have more women in their top boards perform better financially and organisationally that strictly male-dominated companies (Desvaux et al., 2007). Concerning the gender pay gap, whereas this indicator has stagnated in the overall economy, it has increased in the tourism sector. In addition, it is one of the sectors with the widest pay gap: women earn on average 26.3% less than men (Costa et al., 2011a).

The comprehensive set of results which derived from this research point out that the tourism sector is not being able to capitalize on the qualified human resources available and that the difficulties in balancing work and family life has been the major obstacle to women’s vertical mobility in organisations. Women are underrepresented at all levels of management and do not (easily) reach top-management positions, evidencing the labour market failure to fully and effectively make use of the available human capital.

Since women are better qualified, as they hold the majority of graduate and postgraduate degrees in tourism related courses (Costa et al., in print), this situation raises ethical, social and economic concerns. Are the most competitive companies more committed to enhance equality of opportunities internally? Are economic growth and gender equality mutually reinforcing or mutually exclusive? Are there constraints that affect highly-qualified women in the development of strategies that enhance the competitiveness of their companies? Promoting women employment not only improves the profitability of the organizations but also enhances national economies. Thus, it is important to analyse the role female entrepreneurs play in contributing to economic development by fostering social inclusion and employment.

Based on the conclusions and results of Gentour I, the central objective of the project Gentour II is to evaluate how tourism companies and organisations deal with gender equality and to evaluate the potential played by networks and internationalisation to promote forms of gender equality and to introduce innovative forms of economic growth. This will comprise the study of how organisational and economic growth affect gender equality, as well as how gender affects decisions towards growth and strategies used thereof.


Specifically, this project aims to:

      » Diagnose gender equality in tourism companies and organisations;
      » Unveil why women do not reach top managerial positions in tourism companies and organisations;
   » Analyse whether and how internationalisation, innovation and network strategies have the potential to boost gender equality within companies as well as women’s entrepreneurship;
      » Evaluate whether and how women may play a renewed role to boost new forms of economic growth;
      » Assess and compare the constraints affecting the growth of male and female ruled companies;
      » Study the relationship between economic growth, gender equality and internationalisation strategies, networks and innovation.


As with Gentour I, Gentour II relies on solid research which was developed upon strong methodological rigor and in collaboration with an experienced and multidisciplinary research team. An enlarged knowledge platform was created as governmental gender organisations, national representatives of tourism organisations and 4 research centres, namely:

      » Unidade de Investigação em Governança, Competitividade e Políticas Públicas, da Universidade de Aveiro;
      » Anglistics Studies, University of Lisbon;
      » Applied Economic Studies, University of Azores;
      » Centro de Investigação em Ciências Sociais, da Universidade do Minho.

In these projects several renowned researchers/consultants from Portugal, England, Brazil, Sweden, India and Australia were also involved.

Being tourism a diversified sector, comprising different products and environments, the empirical study will be stratified into the seven Portuguese regions (NUTs II Norte, Centro, Lisboa, Alentejo and Algarve, as well as Madeira and Azores), which explains the involvement of the participant universities and polytechnics, covering the whole country. The study will be extended to Brazil, so more empirical evidence and cross national comparisons may be established.

Secondary sources (statistics and previous projects) will be used. Nevertheless, most of the data will arise from an extensive fieldwork directed to all Portuguese tourism organizations and companies.

Two complementary approaches will be utilised – quantitative and qualitative – by collecting primary data through three different tools: an online survey, semi-structured interviews and regional workshops.

In the first stage, an online questionnaire will be used to for surveying tourism companies and organisations in the public and in the private sectors and will be directed at top-management positions in the tourism sector/industry, targeting senior managers and directors, CEOs and Heads of Service/Department/Sector. Tourism companies and organisations will be selected based on a regionally stratified (by region – NUT II – and sector of activity – according to the Tourism Satellite Account) sampling technique.

This dataset (collected in the quantitative study) will provide key information not only to analyse gender equality in tourism organisations and companies, but in order to deeper understand the organisational structure of tourism companies, as well as their priorities, strategies for growth and most commonly felt constraints, semi-structured interviews with key elements from the tourism industry were also designed.

Simultaneously, seven workshops were organised, one in each Portuguese NUTs II: North, Centre, Lisbon, Alentejo, Algarve, Azores and Madeira. These workshops will range from brainstorming sessions with stakeholders of the tourism industry and the academy (including public sector entities, NGOs, private associations, business associations, etc.), to sessions for the dissemination of preliminary results. These events will provide ground for the discussion of regional specificities of the tourism industry and employment and will boost the creation of a national tourism research network for gender issues in the tourism sector.


Carlos Costa | University of Aveiro

Zélia Breda | University of Aveiro
Alcina Maria Sousa | University of Madeira
Ana Isabel Moniz | University of Azores
Anabela Gomes Correia | Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal
João Albino Silva | University of Algarve
Jorge Arroteia | University of Aveiro
Jorge Umbelino | Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies
Manuel Salgado | Polytechnic Institute of Guarda
Maria Paula Carvalho | University of Aveiro
Paula Remoaldo | University of Minho
Victor Manuel Figueira | Polytechnic Institute of Beja
Sandra Caçador | University of Aveiro (research assistant)
Marília Durão | University of Aveiro (research assistant)
Fiona Bakas | University of Aveiro (research assistant)
Isabel Pinho | University of Aveiro (research assistant)
Inês Carvalho | University of Aveiro
Ana Cláudia Mota | University of Aveiro
Gisele Carvalho | University of Aveiro
Denise Salvador | University of Aveiro
Pedro Simão | University of Aveiro

Dimitrios Buhalis | Bournemouth University, UK
Chris Cooper | Oxford Brookes University Business School, UK
Nina Lykke | Linköping University, Sweden
Helena Costa | University of Brasília, Brasil
Luiz Trigo | University of São Paulo, Brasil
Filipa Brandão | University of Aveiro
Rui Costa | University of Aveiro
Erica Wilson | Southern Cross University, Australia
Dayanand Mysore | Goa University, India
Lucy Ferguson | UN Women & Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
Anahita Malek | University of Aveiro
Cristina Figueroa-Domecq | Universidade Rey Juan Carlos, Spain

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Tânia Ventura | idtour - unique solutions


Gentour II is a unique 3-year research project on the role of gender in tourism. More than 500 top-level managers from all seven administrative regions in Portugal (including Madeira and Azores), from the private and public sectors, participated in this study. The project discusses the ways in which gender influences the tourism labour market, through Portuguese tourism managers’ narratives and questionnaire responses. Using feminist economics to analyse tourism labour, this project addresses the underlying structural constraints that both women and men working in the tourism industry face. From coercion to pick 'feminine' courses at university, to discrimination during recruitment because of perceived lack of availability, to reduced earnings and restrictions in career progression, we find that women are particularly affected by gendered constraints when working in tourism. Combining qualitative and quantitative research, this project provides a fascinating insight into the contemporary ways in which gender roles influence the backbone of tourism, that is the people who work in tourism.


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