I began my research work in the tourism sector at the same time that I changed a pragmatic philosophy for a more harmonious one. Then I went from the recurring maxims in my generation, fight, conquer goals, prove to be as capable as men…, to the piece of advice my teacher, Ana Mañeru, translator of Emily Dickinson (2012, 2021) gave me, ‘if you want something to change, change yourself first! How? Starting from oneself, in tune with the course of things’, listening to what the world needs and what we need. That is to say be in tune with the principles of permaculture, which today enters into the theory and practice of tourism, of not believing that the human being is the centre of all things but a part that benefits the environment, to work with nature and its logic, never against it (Marion Young, 2011).

The beginning of this new life was marked by obtaining the Turismo de España doctoral thesis granted by the Ministry of Economy in the summer of 1995. To do this, I had to give up another training grant for research staff at the Departamento de Estudios del Instituto de la Mujer. Both grants were a challenge due to the novelty of their theme in the academic world at the time and the need to further study the work of women and tourism. At that time, we had 23% female unemployment in the country and women’s access to university at the end of the 1980s was a minority in the departments of Universidad Complutense, where I began my collaboration as a sociology student and then of political science. Studies that have come to be known as gender or tourism did not exist yet, and research on these matters had very little recognition in disciplines such as economics or sociology.

The interdisciplinary nature of both areas of knowledge did not help their institutionalisation either; some undergraduate and doctoral students from various careers decided to set up a seminar on women’s studies, which great academics attended, and this was done without charging fees. We also elaborated, during a consultation period with the Ministry of Education, a critique of the Nueva Reforma de los Planes de Estudio Universitarios (LRU of 1983) in order for women to be included in all subjects, such as history, sociology, consumer behaviour. I faced, with some caution, the first papers on women in Western thought in what were the first gender studies at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid commissioned by María Ángeles Durán (2020), a pioneer in accounting for the value of women’s unpaid work. We talked about our circular time, which today brings us closer, according to statistics (Durán, 2015), to that peaceful and circular economy, more rooted in natural cycles and care that humanity needs.

Studies such as those by Isabel Balza (2015) show that men have more pro-environmental opinions, whereas women have more sustainable and pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours (recycling, noise, bicycle use, use of public transport and water are highlighted only as energy saving items). It is an important issue because it overcomes the limitation of sustainable development, which assumes that the costs of environmental action are immediate and personal (using public transport, for example), whereas the benefits are for the future and diffused, such as the reduction of Co2 emissions or energy savings (David Pearce, 1990, 2003).

With this illusion, the following papers arrived at international congresses to insist on the urgency of non-extractive tourism of resources and at national congresses to arrive the tourism studies at the Spanish University. Something that happened with Decree Law 259 of 1996, much later than in the countries of our economic environment. Meanwhile, the sector was growing by leaps and bounds in its contribution to GDP, the balance of payments and in the international ranking in number of tourists, thereby alleviating the high unemployment rates, especially among women and youth. Back in 1999, the companions, Águeda Esteban and Adela Mariscal, as the first affiliated women, invited me to be part of the Spanish Association of Scientific Experts in Tourism, where I was able to contribute to the publication of the first manuals for new undergraduate studies, Human Resources in the Tourism Sector and Sociology of Tourism (coord.), the latter with the chapter, ‘Tourism, Society and Development’ (in Ariel from the Planeta group). However, despite the number and quality of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, a specific area of knowledge in tourism could not be conquered until recently, on 19 October 2021, with Royal Decree 822 on the organisation of university education.

At that time, it became necessary to attend to the need for analysing and improving the new markets, and we started with articles such as ‘Tourist product: conceptual framework and new consumption patterns’ (1996), ‘Paradoxes in paradise: accessibility in nature tourism services in Spain’ (2001) or ‘Tourism as an agent of conservation and development’ (2003) and publications on social skills and directives for students like ‘How to speak in public’ (2004), ‘How to win the position and overcome the Probation Period’ (2008) or ‘Communication in the boards of directors’ (2002).

In this sense, in the tourism sector, female contribution has stood out in the creation of companies and research for sustainable development. On the contrary, the gender gap in senior management and technological occupations has remained (Cristina Figueroa, 2020). Proof of this is that when businesswomen on a global scale are asked about their primary motivation for starting a business, 48% stated that it was ‘to change the world’, 75% ‘because work is scarce’ and only 23% ‘to obtain a large income’, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey (2022). From this, immediate conclusions can be drawn. 1) The importance of managerial training for women entrepreneurs, as the object of every company must be to maximise profits, guarantee their survival and therefore, employment and development: 2) when women undertake, they do so fundamentally as a way to enter the labour market as well as for a decisive interest; 3) for the economic development to be regenerative (improving the land).

Women represent 54% of the employment generated by the tourism industry on an international scale, according to the Estudio de impacto Económico of the World Travel & Tourism Council in collaboration with Oxford Economics. Being businesswomen, the rate of feminisation is much higher in the modalities of tourism with an ecological vocation, but with business smaller in size, such as rural, nature or agrotourism. Something similar happens with tourism research. For example, the most cited female researchers are 10% in the generic category of Tourism on Google Scholar, around 60% in scientific production on Sustainable Tourism in Spanish, 40% in English and 60% among the most cited researchers in the Rural Tourism category.

On a personal note, the study of responsible job-creation and sustainable tourism allowed me to continue with my ideas of youth and overcome the difficulties of the labour market for university women. For example, when the first bank in the country where I worked in Human Resources disappeared or once I finished my doctorate, tourism research led me to believe in the potential of creativity to transform any adverse situation. This was firstly because I was able to combine taking care of my son with the job I wanted; second, because the results of the investigation could have a positive impact on the sector and on society.

This is how I lived as a freelancer with research awards, such as the one for ‘ideas for the promotion of tourism in the Community of Madrid’ from the Confederación de Empresarios for 30 proposals that were widely applied in the hotel industry in my city, the award for the study on the structure and sociology of gaming in Spain (for CELEJ), the Europa Universitas / Sol Meliá essay award on the influence of art on tourism or the research award on the economy and employment of Land Army. I will tell you two little secrets about how I won these awards: 1. You always observe the social sciences method (in documentation, structure, writing, etc.). 2. Apply the techniques of strategic marketing, which begin with knowing what the demand requires for the exchange to be correct, and as these awards had never been granted to a woman until then, I signed the investigations eliminating an E and an S so that it remained the name of my brother, Angel Rubio†. That is like the style of nineteenth-century writers. The committees were happy to discover that he was a girl because they stated that in the future, it would be less compromising to decide to give it to other women.

The time came for my son’s arrival after a confined pregnancy with a poor prognosis, which I tried to overcome by writing about tourist accessibility with special attention to tourism for the elderly and pregnant women. It was so interesting that it also made me ignore the first signs of labour. There is a Spanish saying that “children come into this world with bread under their arm”, and within hours of giving birth to Anthony, I received a call to teach as an associate professor of social studies at a newly created university, and two years later to work in what was the first university of tourism studies in the country, the Rey Juan Carlos, where I continue to work as a professor of tourism marketing.

Little Anthony Wood had turned one year old when we witnessed with astonishment the attacks on the Twin Towers and with it, the first symptoms of an unprecedented crisis in the travel industry in addition to the social and financial one that would manifest itself in 2008 and we had anticipated in works such as The Banking Revolution (1995), Finance and Society (Dir., 2002) or Chance as destiny: from the society of the game to fear (2004). Additionally, there were new scenarios after the elaboration of diverse investigations on Young people in Network (2009), Big Data and tourist knowledge (2015), New tourism professions and ICTs (2021) and Digitization and Intellectual Capital (2019), the latter within the Z Generation in Europe study committee, led by professors from Saarland University (Germany), Chris Schulz† and Anne Rennig. These and other topics resulted in a series of personal development books and reports on leisure, tourism and family in La Vanguardia (2010), one of the main newspapers in Spain and various magazines.

Gen Z is a cohort that grew up with the millennium and whom, without a doubt, we should study and pave the way for with certainty, hope and alternatives, especially after the last years of the pandemic and war threats. Specific, we promoted the NONNOBIS Social Research group with colleagues from different areas of macro and microeconomics and sociology, carrying out collective monographs such as Rural Youth and Development (2018) and our article ‘Youth and rural employment: development factor through consumption and sustainable tourism’ or on ‘Regenerative rural tourism’ (against depopulation and desertification of the mountains) and ‘Business niches and youth employability as factors of sustainable rural development’ (2018). These and other investigations were for various public organisations with the certainty that in a highly competitive market, it is the best strategy the very specific market niches (Tevfik Dalgic, 1994, 2006) to provide a competitive advantage for the entrepreneurship of women and youth. In tourism, specifically through new modalities that respect natural and cultural heritage, this is how we work the processes of ‘Genealogical and Root Tourism’ (2017), Regenerative Rural Tourism (2019) or ‘Halal and Kosher Tourism’ (2021).

However, the ‘business niche’ has not been the only strategy for the promotion of ‘decent employment’ that focuses our concern and the principles that advocate the objectives of the UN 2030 agenda, but we also discovered with other colleagues who shared the idea that the ‘Tourist Route’ is a privileged way to do it. Further, it is a more sustainable way of sharing resources and attractions of various populations in rural areas, without excessive burden for any of them. Based on the Cluster theory (Porter, 1990, 2000), we launched ourselves to promote cultural tourism routes as agents of socioeconomic development, which greatly enhance synergies between companies, markets, suppliers, etc., especially in the aforementioned inland European mountains, gripped by depopulation.

This concern translated into the design of new cultural routes through publications and computer applications, with the financing from the government of various community, first with the project on the Folklore of Segovia (2014), Rutas de La Rioja Encantada (2017) or Rutas de La Rioja, Itinerarios, Industria de Viajeros y Desarrollo (2019) by URJC project and publication in Dickinson. It was to go from town to town after the hidden treasure of their castles, dances, legends or legendary stories, which gave rise to a set of itineraries such as the gastronomic route of the dinosaurs (2019), The Route of the Bandoleros in Alhama-Linares (2018), Routes of Spanish La Rioja and the American ones (with Sara González would go, 2019), Thermal and Health Route (with Esther Pascual), etc.

Along the way, as in research, life meets us, and the work with great tourism experts through international conferences was one of the bases for understanding that research into natural and intangible heritage is the tool to add value to destinies along the line of ‘enchantment’ in Rifkin’s (2000) or Jensen’s (2009) sociological terms. In this task, cultural and spiritual tourism showed without disenchantment and us the pattern of tourism as an unrepentant search for human development. For example, was such that the conference had the participation of 11 countries in Lincoln (UK) in 2006: Tourism, the spiritual dimension with Richard Sharpley, in 2007 on Cultural Tourism with Greg Richard (The Netherlands) and Xerardo Pereiro (Portugal) or with Santiago and Agustina Cano from Argentina in various countries of America with the International Congress on Religious and Sustainable Tourism (2017–2021). Then came the organisation of the first International Congress of Sociology and Anthropology that we organised in 2l-23 may, 2014 in Granada (Spain). Highlighting the Huesca International Congress of 2015, the European project of the Holy Grail, directed by Professor Victoria San Agustín, was one in which we met experts in Grailic routes, sponsoring tourism development between the history and legends of each country. The year 2018 we presented the collective book, ‘Religious Tourism. The European Way of the Holy Grail and other Cultural Routes for Development’ (Victoria Sanagustín y Ángeles Rubio), with the administrations of the Spanish regions that the route crosses (Aragón and C. Valenciana) at the International Tourism Fair (FITUR, for its Spanish acronym).

In 2018, my colleague, Sergio Andrés from the University of La Rioja and co-author of publications on routes for development, asked me to give the vision of tourism in the writing of the expert report against the depopulation of the rural world prior to the drafting of the national law to alleviate this problem in Spain. Through this, the great contribution of the sector as a multiplying agent of employment and wealth was clear, and the regeneration was implied by the new touristic modalities (apitourism, agrotourism, wellness tourism, etc.) carried out fundamentally by young people and women that favours the vegetative growth of rural populations.

In 2020, with my colleagues from the Rey Juan Carlos University (Guillermo Vázquez and Carmen Peligros), we founded the NONNOBIS of Routes for Sustainable Development, coordinating the international monograph Cultural Routes for Sustainable and Regenerative Development in the journal, Sustainability. In May 2022 I became part of the executive of the International Skal Association in Madrid, through which tourism professionals can connect and help each other worldwide. Non nobis, sed omnibus (‘not for us, but for all’) is the academic motto that appears in On Duties (Latin: Officiis), one of the works of the Roman philosopher Cicero; it was also used by crusading orders in charge of the custody of the Holy Grail. According to this motto, all men and women have a natural kindness towards others and should ‘contribute to the general good by an exchange of humanitarian acts’ (officia), a motto that portrays the universal and social vocation of tourism.

Written by Ángeles Rubio-Gil, NONNOBIS-URJC Social Research, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Spain
Read Ángeles’ letter to future generations of tourism researchers


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