UNWTO – The World Tourism Organization

The World Tourism Organisation is a united nations agency which is responsible for the development and promotion of tourism at the world level.

The World Tourism Organisation needs its beginnings as the International Congress of Official Tourist Traffic Associations set up in 1925 in the Haghe. In 1934 International Union of Official Tourist Propaganda organization (IUOTOP) was created. However, it was renamed as the International Union of Official Travel Organisation (IUOTO) after World War 2nd in Geneva.

IUOTO was a technical, non-government organization, whose membership at its peak included 109 National Tourist Organisation (NTOs) and 88 associated members, among them private and public sector organizations.

With passes of time as tourism grew and became an integral part of the fabric of modern life, its international dimensions increased and national Governments started to play significant as well as a proactive role in tourism activities such as infrastructure development.

During the 1960s. It was recognized that there is a need for tourists’ development of international, regional, and national levels, and to keep to the peace of tourist development, specialized inter-Governmental machinery is required. That is why in 1967 IUOTO members called for its transformation into an intergovernmental body empowered to deal on a worldwide basis with all matters concerning tourists and cooperated with other international bodies.

In 1970, on the 27th Sept. IUOTO’s Extraordinary General Assembly adopted the statutes of the World Tourism Organisation in Mexico. Thus, IUOTO became the World Tourism Organisation and its first General Assembly was held in Madrid in May 1975. The Secretariat was installed in Madrid and the Spanish Government provided the initial infrastructure.

In 1979, World Tourism Day created, to be celebrated every year on 27th September. Since the inception of UNWTO, it has been playing a pivotal role in the field of travel and tourism.

In fact, UNWTO is acting as an umbrella organization, and plays a catalytic role in promoting technological transfers and international cooperation, stimulating and developing public-private sector partnership, encouraging the implementation of the Global Code of ethics for tourism, maximizes the possible economical-social, cultural impact of tourism and minimize its negative social, cultural and environmental impact.

To further strengthen its overall role in tourism, UNWTO was converted into a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Aims & Objective of UNWTO

Through tourism, UNWTO aims at stimulating economic growth and job creation, providing incentives, protecting the environment, and cultural heritage, promoting peace, prosperity, and respect for rights. The UNWTO’s main missions/aims are as:

  • To create employment opportunities.
  • To improve international understanding and contribute peace among all the nations of the world.
  • To create intercultural awareness and personal friendships.
  • To promote and develop responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism.
  • To stimulate and develop responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism.
  • To stimulate and develop public-private sector partnerships.
  • To develop and encourage the implementation of the Global Code of ethics for travel and tourism.
  • To help in equalization in Economic opportunities.
  • To coordinate and cooperate with the other international Agencies in tourism promotion and development.
  • To focus on destination development.
  • To promote the use of information technology.
  • To develop Human Resources.
  • To promote and spread the message of peace, harmony through quality educations and training.
  • To develop a conceptional framework for tourism an encourage to use.

Membership of UNWTO

In 2003 UNWTO membership reached 141 countries, seven territories, and 360 affiliate members representing the private sector educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism bodies. The UNWTO has three categories of membership:

UNWTO Membership

  1. Full Member
  2. Associate Member
  3. Affiliated Member

Full Member

It is opened to all Sovereign states. At present, full members are 141 countries. India is the founder member of UNWTO.

Associate Members

This type of membership is opened to all territories not responsible for their external relations. The membership requires the prior approval of the Government which assumes responsibility for their external relations. At present seven territories are associated members.

Affiliate Members

Affiliate membership comprises a wide range of organizations and companies working directly in travel, tourism, and related sectors. These may include airlines, cruises, transport, hotels, resorts, restaurants, tour operators, travel agents, banking institutions, insurance companies, and other travel-related organizations. Moreover, the affiliate members made up of three groups namely:

  1. The UNWTO Business Council
  2. The UNWTO Education Council
  3. The UNWTO Task Force in Destination Management

The affiliate membership requires endorsement by the government of the state in which the headquarters of the applicant is located.

The UNWTO is the only inter-governmental organization that offers membership to the operational sector and in this way offers a unique contact point for discussion between government officials and industry leaders. UNWTO broad-based afflicted membership also has its own programmes of activities which includes, regular meetings, seminars, workshops, the conference on the specific topic such as e-business for tourism, and public-private sector cooperation and partnership.

Organizational Structure of UNWTO

UNWTO administration is carried out under a secretary-general, executive council, regional commission, committees, and secretariat, etc. The overall control and management of UNWTO lie with the General Assembly, which takes place every year. Thus, the bodies and organizational structure of UNWTO follows as:

General Assembly

It is the supreme and principal body of UNWTO. The General Assembly is composed of members and associate members, whereas affiliate members and representations of other international organizations can participate as observers. Every four years it elects a Secretary-General. General Assembly meets every year to approve the budget and program of work and to debate topics of vital importance to the tourism sector.

Executive Council

It is important for the smooth working of UNWTO. In fact, the Executive Council is a Governing board of UNWTO, is responsible for ensuring that the organization carried out its functions to achieve goals/objectives. The board meets twice a year and is composed of 27 members elected in the general assembly in a ratio of one for every five full members.

Spain has a permanent seat on the executive council as a host country of UNWTO’s headquarters. Further, representatives of associate and affiliate members participate in Executive council meetings as observers.

Regional Commissions

Strengthen and support the efforts carried out by the National Tourism administration, UNWTO has established a regional commission. At present, UNWTO has six regional commission – Africa, the Americas, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia.

Each region receives special attention from its regional representative based at the headquarter in Madrid. The commissions meat at least a year and are composed of all the full, associate members from the region and affiliate members from the region participate as an observer. In the special effort to help boost tourism to Sub-Saharan Africa, UNWTO has developed a specific program of technical activities for the years 2003-04.

Committees of UNWTO

UNWTO has appointed various committees of Full, Associate and affiliated members to advice UNWTO administration and to achieve its mission, these committees are:

  • Programme Committee
  • Budget and Finance Committee
  • Statistic and micro-economical analysis of tourism Committee
  • The quality support Committee
  • Education Council
  • Business Council
  • Sustainable development of the Tourism Committee
  • Tourism Ethics Committee

Secretariat of UNWTO

Secretariat is the hierarchy of authority and responsibility through which UNWTO works. It tells us who is responsible for what. The UNWTO Secretariat is led by Secretary-General, these officers are responsible for implementing UNWTO programs. The UNWTO Business Council is head by a full-time chief executive and is supported by the Regional Commission and Committee.

Role and Contribution of UNWTO

At the beginning of the new millennium, tourism has firmly established as the number one industry in most of the counties of the world. For more than a dozen countries, tourism is the fastest-growing economic sector in terms of foreign exchange earnings, job creation, and an important factor in the balance of payment.

UNWTO has been playing an increasingly important role to make tourism as a number one industry at global, regional, and national levels. Since its inception i.e. from 1924 UNWTO has taken various initiatives to promote and develop tourism in a systematic and scientific way such as:

  • Develop intercultural awareness and personal friendship.
  • Encourage investment in tourism.
  • Help in equalize economic opportunities.
  • Develop international understanding and peace.
  • Regional development.
  • Develop sustainable and responsible tourism.
  • Cooperate and coordinate with international agencies for tourism development.
  • Provide leadership, and quality education.
  • Destination development and management.
  • Promote technology.
  • Develop statistical measurement.
  • Develop ethics and social responsibility.