Research continuously proves that when you invest in women, they reinvest that money back into their families – leading to stronger local economies, better education for their children, healthier communities and more. Since women make up such a high percentage of the global tourism workforce, we have the opportunity to empower them (and their communities) simply by making conscious choices to do so when traveling both locally and overseas.
Earlier this year, I traveled to Peru for an eight-day exploration of Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Sacred Valley on a National Geographic/G Adventures group tour. (Full disclosure: G Adventures is a client of my company, McPherson Strategies. As part of our work together part of my trip was paid for.) I had never visited Peru, but expected to be wowed by the region’s panoramas, biodiversity and history. While the views were indeed spectacular and the llamas adorable, the most memorable portion of my trip turned out to be a visit to the Parwa Community Restaurant. And it wasn’t just because of the spectacular food.
Located in Huchuy Qosqo, a small, remote village in the Sacred Valley, the Parwa Community Restaurant is a prime example of a tourism social enterprise done right (G adventures Group also funded the creation of the restaurant and the training program I visited, but they do not earn a profit from either. It goes directly back into investments in the community via the Huchuy Qosqo Association.). The restaurant, which was kick-started by G Adventures and its nonprofit partner Planeterra Foundation, serves incredible Peruvian delicacies while helping to fuel the local economy and community. All of the employees at Parwa receive trainings, insurance and monthly salaries, and income generated from the restaurant goes back into the community via the Huchuy Qosqo Association. It was remarkable to see how Parwa has been a complete game changer for the residents of Huchuy Qosqo – in particular for the women, who have historically struggled to find work outside of their homes and now hold leadership roles at the restaurant.
In fact, it seemed that everywhere we went in Peru, women were at the forefront of community development and tourism initiatives. It wasn’t my imagination: the International Labour Organization reports that between 60% and 70% of the global tourism workforce is made up of women. That said, what I witnessed at Parwa and in Inca culture was unique in terms of women holding leadership roles. In most cases – whether you’re visiting a local spa or the boardroom of a major travel company – chances are that the leadership team is made up of mostly men. According to Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO Secretary-General, “Though in most regions women make up the majority of the tourism workforce, they tend to be concentrated in the lowest paid and lowest status jobs and perform a large amount of unpaid work in family tourism businesses.”