Inclusivity in Tourism
Making a Space for All
Tourism is an industry that has always been driven by people. It thrives on travellers’ desire for exploration and discovery, and the passion of tourism operators to create and market products that capture the nature, culture and spirit of a destination.
The tourism sector is for everybody – whether you are a conglomerate operating multiple hotel chains, or an individual hosting a traditional cooking class for tourists. It is a sector that has the power to change people’s lives and positively impact entire communities, by creating jobs and facilitating economic and social development.
On a global scale, the tourism industry offers opportunities to people across society, including vulnerable groups such as women and the differently abled. The industry is also responsible for driving entrepreneurship, with up to 80% of the sector comprising SMEs. In Sri Lanka too, tourism has created jobs in a number of geographical locations, for people with varied skills. It has also fuelled the spark of entrepreneurship and innovation, with a large number of tourism operators belonging to the SME sector.
As much as we recognise the potential of the tourism industry to create income earning opportunities, boost the economy and transform communities, we also need to consider how far we have come, as an industry, in terms of inclusivity and diversity. Is our industry an equal opportunity employer? Do we have clear and transparent policies and practices that allows everyone to access jobs within the industry? Are there sufficient learning and training programs that help equip people with the right skills?
Diversity and inclusion in tourism will not only have a resounding impact on the lives of vulnerable and marginalised groups in society, but also result in the industry becoming more sustainable and responsible. In the long term, it will also help establish Sri Lanka as a more inclusive and diverse destination, able to accommodate all types of travellers.
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Image features Girl’s Surf Club, Arugambay. Image credit: Skills for Inclusive Growth