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Wen, J.J.;  Lin, Q.;  Wangzhou, K. Tourism, Ethnicity, and Gender in Yunnan. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 03 December 2023).
Wen JJ,  Lin Q,  Wangzhou K. Tourism, Ethnicity, and Gender in Yunnan. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed December 03, 2023.
Wen, Julie Jie, Qingqing Lin, Kaixin Wangzhou. "Tourism, Ethnicity, and Gender in Yunnan" Encyclopedia, (accessed December 03, 2023).
Wen, J.J.,  Lin, Q., & Wangzhou, K.(2022, November 28). Tourism, Ethnicity, and Gender in Yunnan. In Encyclopedia.
Wen, Julie Jie, et al. "Tourism, Ethnicity, and Gender in Yunnan." Encyclopedia. Web. 28 November, 2022.
Tourism, Ethnicity, and Gender in Yunnan

If a tourist looks for destinations with colourful and exotic lifestyles in China, then Yunnan would certainly be one of the more popular choices due to its high proportion of ethnic populations. Gender gaps appear to be reduced, with ethnic woman often conducting better business than their male counterparts. Additionally, ethnic women have the opportunity to explore the potentials of their own capacity. They come into contact with the outside world and gain better social capital, along with expanding choices, and social recognition.

china ethnic women gender equality tourism

1. Tourism and Gender

After the initial feminist movement from over two centuries ago, gender inequality is still very much alive, although the challenges are different in the ‘post equal opportunity’ world [1]. The feminisation of the paid labour force occurred with social and economic changes in the twentieth century in the West [2]. However, its impact remains debatable as men continue to dominate the business world [3][4].
The first papers on tourism and gender were written in the 1980s, and the general trajectory has been upwards [5]. A Special Issue on gender and tourism was initiated by the Annals of Tourism Research in 1995. Mountain Research and Development published a Special Issue on Gender and Sustainable Development in Mountains in 2014. China Tourism Review presented a Special Issue on Gender and Tourism Development in China in 2018. Tourism research is paying more attention to gender relations over time, the construction or deconstruction of gender identity, and the differences and boundaries in power hierarchies [6][7][8].
Margaret Swain [9] (pp. 258–259) defined gender as identity and social relations in order to emphasise the dynamic and political struggle of gender construction in tourism. Kinnaird and Hall [10] proposed a framework with relevance to gender and sexuality construction in order to address identity and power in tourism contexts.
It is important to explore the gendered complexities of tourism and the power relations involved [7]. Researchers recognise the gendered impact of tourism in host communities, and that tourism modifies local cultural practices in ways that affect men and women differently [5]. Tourism provides potential for women’s participation and leadership in family, community, and political life, thereby promoting pride, entrepreneurship, activism, and gender equality, especially in rural areas [11][12][13].
Although tourism brings a source of opportunity for women to develop economic and social independence, conflict also occurs as women and men negotiate new gender roles and identities [14]. Employment of women in the tourism industry has challenged or reinforced the traditional gender ideology when women gain autonomy and more conflicts arise between partners [15]. Tourism may reinforce problems such as the double workload for women at work and at home, domestic violence, and even increasing disparity in gender [9][16].

2. Tourism Expanding Gender Gaps

Some scholars believe that it is easier for women to undertake tourism work, which offer part-time opportunities in order to accommodate household duties [17]. Many ethnic women possess the charming characteristics of honesty, warm heartedness, and sharpness, which often make females more successful than males in negotiating with visitors [18]. Tourism work is preferred because it is viewed as enjoyable [19]. This is because tourism employment is often offered in a place with a relaxing and leisurely environment; additionally, the interaction with tourists makes the work more interesting. Women employees may benefit from the development of tourism, as it may widen their social horizons [19][20].
However, there is a wide body of research contesting that tourism does not seem to improve women’s status [5]. ‘Tourism jobs are feminised, low paid, low status, low-skilled, seasonal and precarious with few development opportunities or employment rights’ [21]. The flexibility of tourism work does not necessarily empower women but may instead maintain their subordination to men [22]. The traditional gender ideology of men’s superiority is not challenged but may be reinforced by tourism [16].
There are case studies indicating that unexamined masculinist values are deeply embedded in tourism and that the gender gap is increasing [8][9][23]. Önen [14] discusses how tourism work affects gender roles in the family-run guesthouses at Bozcaada Island in Turkey. In addition, Önen comments that although tourism may provide women with some social capital, there appears to be no direct link between tourism development and women’s empowerment, which is found as a result in the complexity of gender relations and culture [14]. Feng [16] examines the changes in gender relationships among the ethnic Miao with the growth of tourism in China, and concludes that tourism does not necessarily empower Miao women but may instead maintain their subordination to men under changing socioeconomic circumstances. In addition, women workers are perceived as less available by recruiters due to their supposed social reproductive responsibilities in Portugal as well [21]. Berlanga-Adell [22] presents a case study about ethnic women in Morocco suffering an increase in gender inequality in the process of tourism development, with women’s loss of political and economic power to the male community. Women are working in low-paid casual jobs with little career advancement opportunities [22].

3. Tourism and Ethnic Women

Ethnic tourism features the quest for the cultural uniqueness of ethnic groups, with a colour of exoticism [24] p. 84. The tourism industry commercialises ethnic cultures, with ethnic women as the key attraction, for tourist consumption [23]. Ethnic women, sexual imagery, and gender are used in tourism practices in order to market destinations, to reinforce stereotypes, and to perpetuate uneven power relationships between hosts and guests [21].
The lack of employment opportunities for women in rural or ethnic regions has been well documented [13][23], mainly as a result of ethnic women traditionally suffering from a lack of formal education, family support, and social recognition [24][25]. Tourism provides ethnic women greater opportunities than men due to the fact that women are often better in jobs that do not have a clear structure, such as customer service and tourism [21]. Many ethnic women stand out from their male peers in tourism due to their personality, physical appearance, and what are often seen as ‘feminine’ connoted skills, such as building a connection with customers during face to face encounters [26]. However, Trupp and Sunanta [27] argue that while urban ethnic tourism enables ethnic minority women to become breadwinners in Thailand by selling souvenirs on foot, it also reproduces gender asymmetry as these women stay at the bottom of the informal tourism economy. Ethnic men are not as successful in tourism most likely because they are shy [18]. However, a deeper inquiry reveals that ethnic men may have better opportunities, and that they feel ashamed to carry out low-status tourism work, such as souvenir vending, cooking, or servicing [16][27].
Kinnaird and Hall [10] encourage observation of indigenous gender relations in tourism development at the household, community, and societal levels, and the transformations seen in women’s roles. The fact that women have found new employment opportunities in tourism and have overcome their traditional constraints is a positive sign [28]. Attributed to tourism, the dynamics of power in gender relationships and marriage have transformed some traditional ethnic societies in China, encouraging ethic women to be more ambitious, independent, and successful, as a response to increasing income and social capital, pride in their heritage, network, and interaction with tourists [18][19].
Previously small and isolated lives are replaced with interactions with tourists, who establish their connections with the destination, and mutually benefiting partnerships may develop [20]. The multidirectional care relations between ethnic women and the guests may contribute to more sustainable business practices [29]. Ethnic women tend to link visitors with authentic experience in the local community, and they provide an avenue to defy the potential of commodification of ethnicity [26][30].
All of the complexity as well as the contradictory issues detailed in tourism literature call for further study in these areas. This study thus attempts to enrich the current debates on ethnic gender issues in tourism via the following research design.


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