Women’s role in Tourism

14 Feb

Tourism is fairly new phenomena for rural china. Although its importance has grown rapidly. In some areas it is now second to farming as the main area of focus and income. Tourism is typically dominated by young and middle aged women. This gives the women the opportunity to be more involved in family finances and therefore decision making (Sia Juo et al 2013). Programmes known as ‘Nongjiale’, meaning happy farm family, have been developed in rural areas for city dwellers to have a break from urban life. This is encouraged by the government, due to it being a smokeless industry with relatively low start up and management costs. As well as providing food and accommodation, the women may also be involved in cultural performances involving singing and dancing (Sia Juo et al 2013). Women in china are typically the home makers and are used to cooking for large numbers of family members, therefore cooking for tourist is not a difficulty. Tourism is often accused of destroying local culture and identity, however this new area of development has not effected women’s attitude to their family and culture. They are still involved in rural Chinese ways, and some would argue that tourism in this area is reproducing and preserving this culture (Sia Juo et al 2013).

However, with tourism being such a lucrative industry, large companies often have long term leases on the natural and cultural resources of some rural villages. Leaving little job opportunities or benefits for the locals. Many women are reduced to selling flower wreaths and other craft items (Feng 2013). In some areas, such as Fenghuang county, arts and crafts are very much incorporated in the culture. While the tourist market for such items is continually growing, the local market is suffering. This is a result of  cheaper factory made goods being more accessible. As well as the changing nature of local ceremonies because of outside influences. The art of making these crafts is passed down through the female generations. However, due to increasing demand young men are also being taught these practices (Feng 2007). There is resistance to this trend, as some villagers feel that they want to maintain their identity and the selling of their crafts devalues this. The souvenirs result in detachment from what  the items traditionally represent. The production is no longer related to their culture, but for making money (Feng 2013).

Being involved in a more visual labor market does not always mean empowerment for women. The small scale and lack of stability of selling souvenirs means that the family is still dependent on male income. Therefore women may still experience subordination and lack of respect. In one case noted in Feng (2007), a women asked her husband for money to buy new clothes, he refused and responded that she did not need new clothes as she would just get them dirty while working. Economic control is still very much in the hands of the men (Feng 2007).

Women’s work, men’s work: gender and tourism among the Miao in rural china. Xianghang Feng 2013, Anthropology of work review. 34,1, 2-14

Gender and Hmong women’s handicrafts in Fenghuang’s ‘Tourism great leap forward’ China. Xianghang Feng2007, Anthropology of work review. 28,3, 17-26

Women’s role in sustaining villages and rural tourism in China. Rosalind Sia Juo, Bihu Wu, Jinah Park, Hua Shu, 2013, Research notes and reports/Annals of tourism research. 43, 624-650.


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