What is the World Tourism Organization?

UNWTO promotes the idea that tourism is a key driver of social and economic progress.
UNWTO promotes the idea that tourism is a key driver of social and economic progress.

What is the World Tourism Organization?

The origin of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) dates back to nearly a century ago at The Hague. It is the United Nations agency that is tasked with the promotion and advocating for responsible, sustainable and tourism that is accessible globally.

UNWTO’s membership includes 156 countries, 6 territories and approximately 500 affiliate members, with significant and specific interests in tourism. All these are representative of the private sector, learning institutions and facilities, tourism associations and local tourism authorities. Additionally, the members look into the commercial and non-commercial parties and associations with engagements and activities related to the objectives of UNWTO that are in the range of its competence as an organization.

As it stands, it is well known internationally in the tourism field as an organization handling tourism-related activities. One, it promotes tourism as a critical factor in economic growth for majority of countries. Two, in this field of tourism, it is seen as inclusive of development and sustainability in the environment. Thirdly, as an organization it provides knowledge, leadership and support to key stakeholders who are involved in advocating for tourism policies and practices globally.

Structure of UNWTO

The structure of UNWTO involves the General Assembly, the Executive Council, the specialized Committees, and the Secretariat all tasked with implementing the organization’s program of work and meeting the various needs of members. The official languages of UNWTO are English, Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish.

The UNWTO has its headquarters located in Madrid and it promotes tourism education and training, provides knowledge of the market and enhances competitive and sustainable tourism policies. It also collaborates with other parties to ensure that tourism is a crucial and effective instrument for development by providing technical knowledge and assistance to a number of projects that are being run in various countries worldwide.

Role in Tourism

The UNWTO plays a major role as a global forum for policy issues and reliable and practical source of knowledge of tourism worldwide. In this respect, it facilitates the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. This is mainly with the aim of making the best out of the contribution arising from tourism in social and economic development and reducing the negative long-term effects that are bound to arise. The organization is well involved in promoting tourism as a significant aspect in attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are geared towards the eradication of poverty and promotion of sustainable development and peace in the world.

With the number of tourist destinations worldwide opening up and more investment going towards the sector, it has made it into a key driver of social and economic progress through the creation of jobs and enterprises, export revenues, and infrastructure development. In the last decade, UNWTO has established that tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification to become one of the largest and economic sectors in the world exhibiting fast growth. Many new destinations have come up to top up the traditional favourites of Europe, North America and Africa.


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