Tourism And Gender
Tourism has been practised all over the world for centuries. Tourists travel different parts of the globe in for different reasons: some in pursuit of adventure, others as a passion, others to travel and see the world and different things in different places, for example, the wild animals, breathtaking sceneries and to experience different cultures. Tourism is however very volatile and has different effects on both the locals and the tourists. It also affects gender differently.
There are various opportunities that open up with tourism. Tourism brings with it opportunities for women. For example, employment opportunities for women in the tourism sector are 46%. This is a large number and it, therefore, helps women to attain financial independence and contribute towards the building of the economy. This means that women, through tourism have an opportunity to better their lives and work to assist the men in providing for the families.
Secondly, tourism has led to the erosion of culture and the disregard for the cultural guidelines set in place for the roles of the men and the women in the society. An example of this is the view of women as the host and the men as the provider. Take an example of Kenya where the man is supposed to fend for his family whereas the woman’ work is to bear children, cook for her family and look after the homestead. Presently, due to the interaction with tourists from diverse cultures, there is an exchange of cultural practices and the guidelines that were previously followed to the letter are discarded for new, more convenient practices. The women and the men start taking up each other’s roles and the men may not take their cultural practices as they did earlier.
Exchange of culture might be good to some extent but it may lead to loss of identity. For example, if someone from Africa visits the Western world or even Europe, they mostly end up losing their cultural identity. This is because with the void left by the culture that once defined the lifestyle is replaced by a feeling of nostalgia. This may lead to withdrawal from people in the case of a male, or looking for an emotional attachment in the case of women.
Thirdly, tourism relies greatly on the gender of the tourist. This means that a tourist’s destination will depend on whether it is a man or a woman. This is due to the different perception of beauty and attractiveness between men and women. Most women prefer to visit “exquisite” places that have beaches, “native houses”, expensive stores that sell unique memorabilia and even clothes by famous designers like Vera Wang. Such places are the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. The men, however, prefer places where they will experience the adrenaline and get to go on adventures that they have not experienced back at home.
Examples are bungee jumping, hunting, or camping. This shows that men’s perception of beauty and fun is very different from women. The view of tourism is different and the choice of the tourist destination goes further to prove how different the men’s tourism experience is from that of women. These perceptions are constructed out of the culture hence “a tourist landscape both physically and emotionally bounded by features that may simultaneously reassure, identify, satisfy, or disquiet the viewer” (Gould and White, 1986: 47; 1969; Aitchison, et al., 2000; Reynolds, 2004)
In tourism, women are also viewed as sexual objects and are usually used to attract tourists. For example, in the advertisement of getaways, the woman is usually portrayed as a sexual object because there are usually photos of half-naked women in bikinis or totally naked, with a beautiful body smiling as a show of invitation. This attracts tourists, especially male tourists because they choose such destinations in the hope of satisfying their sexual fantasies with the women in the advertisements.
The women are also lured that they will find love in their tour. They are subtly advised on what to buy, where to buy them in order to make the experience fully. Therefore, this gives the tourists a leeway to engage in casual sex during their vacations. An example is research recently carried out in Jamaica where it was found that 43% of women tourists engage in casual sex whereas 69% of men engage in the same. (Coleman and Crang, 2002; Lew, et al., 2004).
To conclude, gender provides a great difference in tourism in terms of experience. It is however very possible to experience tourism at its peak regardless of gender or cultural restraints. The rise in tourism has caused an opening in job opportunities and the chance of various people from vast parts of the world to experience a culture different from theirs and exposure to different styles of living.
Coleman, S., and M. Crang Tourism: between place and performance. Berghahn Books,
Aitchison, C.; N. MacLeod; and S. Shaw Leisure and tourism landscapes: social and
cultural geographies. Routledge, London, 2000.
Coleman, S., and M. Crang Tourism: between place and performance. Berghahn
Books, London, 2002.
Lew, A.; C.M. Hall; and A. Williams A companion to tourism. Blackwell Publishing Ltd Oxford, UK, 2004.
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