The World Tourism Organization

The World Tourism Organization Studies and Promotes Global Tourism

Ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral
Tourists visiting the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral in Macau, China. Ken Welsh/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The World Tourism Organization promotes and studies international tourism. Headquartered in Madrid, Spain, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. More than 900 million times a year, someone travels to another country. Travelers visit beaches, mountains, national parks, historic sites, festivals, museums, worship centers, and countless other attractions.

Tourism is one of the world's most important industries and creates millions of jobs. The UNWTO is particularly devoted to promoting tourism in developing countries and has vowed to accomplish some of the UN's Millennium Development Goals. The UNWTO reminds travelers to be informed and tolerant in order to truly understand different cultures.

Geography of the World Tourism Organization

Any country that is a member of the United Nations can apply to join the World Tourism Organization. The UNWTO currently has 154 member states. Seven territories such as Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, and Aruba are associate members. For easier and more successful administration, the UNWTO divides the world into six "regional commissions-" Africa, the Americas, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia. The official languages of the UNWTO are English, French, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic.

History, Structure, and Regulations of the World Tourism Organization

The World Tourism Organization was founded in the mid-1970s.
Its basis was the combination of the ideas of multiple international travel promotion organizations dating back to the 1930s. In 2003, the acronym "UNWTO" was established to distinguish it from the World Trade Organization. Since 1980, World Tourism Day has been celebrated annually on September 27th.

The World Tourism Organization is composed of a General Assembly, Executive Council, and Secretariat.

These groups meet periodically to vote on the budget, administration, and priorities of the organization. Members can be suspended from the organization if their tourism policies conflict with the UNWTO'S objectives. Some countries have voluntarily withdrawn from the organization over the years. Members are expected to pay dues to help fund the administration of the UNWTO.

Goal of Raising Living Standards

A cornerstone of the World Tourism Organization is the improvement of the economic and social living conditions of the world's people, especially residents of developing countries. Tourism is a tertiary economic activity and part of the service sector. Industries involving tourism provide approximately 6% of the world's jobs. These jobs alleviate global poverty and can be particularly beneficial to women and young adults. Revenue gained from tourism enables government to reduce debt and invest in social services.

Industries Related to Tourism

Nearly 400 establishments are "Affiliate Members" of the World Tourism Organization. Businesses, universities, local tourism boards, tour group operators, and numerous other organizations help the UNWTO accomplish its goals. To ensure that tourists can arrive easily and affordibly and enjoy themselves, countries often upgrade their infrastructure and amenities. Airports, train stations, highways, ports, hotels, restaurants, shopping opportunities, and other facilities are built. The UNWTO works with many other international organizations such as UNESCO and the International Olympic Committee. Another critical point of interest for the UNWTO is the sustainability of the environment. The UNWTO works with airlines and hotels to improve energy and water efficiency.

Recommendations for Travelers

The World Tourism Organization's "Global Code of Ethics for Tourists" gives numerous recommendations to travelers. Travelers should thoroughly plan their trips and learn to speak some words of the local language. To ensure personal health and security, travelers should know how to receive assistance in case of an emergency. Travelers must observe local laws and respect human rights. The UNWTO works to prevent human trafficking and other abuses.

Additional Work of the World Tourism Organization

The World Tourism Organization researches and publishes many documents such as the World Tourism Barometer. The organization ranks countries by the number of visitors they receive annually, as well as travelers' method of transportation, nationality, length of stay, and money spent. The UNWTO also...
  • studies travel trends through recent history
  • predicts future tourism trends
  • issues travel warnings
  • prevents the spread of diseases
  • helps countries market their destinations
  • encourages countries to simplify visa application processes and reduce travel taxes
  • trains travel professionals
  • helps reduce congestion at the world's most visited sites
  • helps destinations rebuild their image after crises like natural disasters.

Rewarding Tourism Experiences

The World Tourism Organization is the most important institute that evaluates international tourism. Tourism can bring economic and social prosperity for the world's most vulnerable. The UNWTO protects the environment and fosters peace. Before embarking on their adventures, travelers must be willing to learn geography and history, and about different languages, religions, and customs. Respectful travelers will be warmly welcomed in the world's most visited places and, more importantly, emerging destinations. Travelers will never forget the fascinating places they visited or the special people they met.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Richard, Katherine Schulz. "The World Tourism Organization." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, Richard, Katherine Schulz. (2017, March 3). The World Tourism Organization. Retrieved from Richard, Katherine Schulz. "The World Tourism Organization." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 20, 2018).