Gender equality and the need for human resources to keep pace with the industry’s growth are among the greatest challenges facing travel, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Sarah Matthews, TripAdvisor head of destination marketing in the Asia-Pacific region and chairperson of PATA, told the PATA summit in Gangneung, Republic of Korea: “Women make up a large proportion of the tourism workforce.

“They are well represented in service and clerical level jobs, but poorly represented at executive level.

Quoting a UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) report on women in tourism, she said: “Women in travel and tourism typically are paid 10% to 15% less than their male counterparts.”

In addition, she said: “A large amount of unpaid work is carried out by women in family tourism businesses.

“The travel sector has almost two times as many women employees as other sectors, but only one-in-five tourism ministers worldwide are women.”

Matthews also highlighted the association’s commitment to ‘human capital’ development. She told the summit: “The rapid growth of international travel in the Asia Pacific region [means] the development of human resources will be the greatest challenge in the future.”

Adrienne Lee, director of development at the Planeterra Foundation in Canada, said: “I often think of this sector as more female dominated [than others], but that is not true at the executive level.

“Progress is too slow and too uneven. At the entrepreneurial level, women are almost non-existent.”

She identified the main reason as the fact that “having a family falls disproportionately on women”.

Raya BIdshahri, chief executive of the Awecademy business consultancy in Canada, suggested: “One way [to benefit women in the industry] would be to provide flexible working and options such as affordable child care.”