Voicing support for the theme of the United Nations International Women’s Day: “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” Nicola Madden-Greig, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), said education, innovation and technological change were integral for gender equality and the empowerment of women working in tourism in the digital age.
Madden-Greig, one of four women who have headed CHTA during its 60-year history, asserted the digital gender gap, which isolated women – and particularly rural women – during the COVID-19 pandemic, had less of an effect on women in tourism.
However, when it comes to remuneration, gaps remain to be addressed. She said the wage gap, while smaller in the tourism industry, is still an area of concern. According to a 2019 World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) study, women in tourism earn 14.7 percent less than men.
Madden-Greig pledged CHTA will continue to focus on increased education and training for “women in our industry, who make up the majority of the tourism workforce worldwide – approximately 54 percent compared to 39 percent in the broader economy.”
CHTA’s Technology Task Force, she added, focuses on educating members on the latest tools for improving revenues and driving efficiencies with a specific emphasis on micro-, small- and medium-sized tourism entities (MSMTE) as well as independent tourism organizations, which continue to attract many women.
“The overarching responsibility of the CHTA Task Force is to explore digital assets and tools — such as big data, blockchain, digital marketing, virtual reality and augmented reality — and to use technology to drive innovation and profitability in tourism,” she said.
Madden-Greig, a two-time past president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), believes that virtual learning is one of the technology tools that allowed CHTA to reach women and provided opportunities to level the playing field.
“Additionally, as a woman leader in tourism, part of my mandate is to provide an example and way forward for future female leaders. It is time for more women to realize their full potential as leaders, entrepreneurs and workers within the industry with the skills and abilities to rise to the very top in all sub-sectors,” said Madden-Greig, one of only three women to serve in the top job at the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association.
Recalling the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, she stated that efforts aimed at strengthening, coordinating and focusing work towards gender equality in tourism governmental institutions and businesses as they recover from the pandemic present a golden opportunity that the Caribbean must embrace to redress the gender inequities in the region’s tourism sector.
Madden-Greig, who is also group director of Marketing & Sales for Jamaica’s Courtleigh Hospitality Group, asserted that the elevation of women to parity with men through gender equity allows them to productively use technology and innovation to enhance the overall value of tourism, thereby benefiting all.