World Tourism Organization

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World Tourism Organization
World Tourism Organization Logo.svg
Emblem of the United Nations.svg
Formation1 November 1975(45 years ago) (1975-11-01)
TypeUnited Nations specialized agency
Legal statusActive
Headquarters Madrid, Spain
Flag of Georgia.svg Zurab Pololikashvili
A coloured voting box.svg   Politicsportal

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations specialized agency entrusted with the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, having its headquarters in Madrid, Spain. It is the leading international organization in the field of tourism, which promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers the sector leadership and support in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide. It serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism research and knowledge. It encourages the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism [1] to maximize the contribution of tourism to socio-economic development, while minimizing its possible negative impacts, and is committed to promoting tourism as an instrument in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), geared towards eliminating poverty and fostering sustainable development and peace worldwide.


As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.

UNWTO focus is on Sustainable Development, Competitiveness, Innovation & Digital Transformation, Ethics, Culture & Social Responsibility, Technical Cooperation, UNWTO Academy, and Statistics. [2]

The official languages of UNWTO are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Before the outbreak of the  COVID-19 pandemic, tourism stood at an all-time high: 1 out of 10 jobs worldwide depended on tourism and international tourism arrivals reached 1.5 billion in 2019.

Against a backdrop of heightened uncertainty, UNWTO conveyed the Global Tourism Crisis Committee to guide the tourism sector as it faced up to the COVID-19 challenge.

UNWTO Priorities

UNWTO headquarters, Madrid UNWTO headquarters (Madrid, Spain) 01.jpg
UNWTO headquarters, Madrid

Mainstreaming tourism in the global agenda: Advocating the value of tourism as a driver of socio-economic growth and development, its inclusion as a priority in national and international policies and the need to create a level playing field for the sector to develop and prosper.

Improving tourism competitiveness: Improving UNWTO Members’ competitiveness through knowledge creation and exchange, human resources development and the promotion of excellence in areas such as policy planning, statistics and market trends, sustainable tourism development, marketing and promotion, product development and risk and crisis management.

Promoting sustainable tourism development: Supporting sustainable tourism policies and practices: policies which make optimal use of environmental resources, respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities and provide socio-economic benefits for all.

Advancing tourism’s contribution to poverty reduction and development: Maximizing the contribution of tourism to poverty reduction and achieving the MDGs by making tourism work as a tool for development and promoting the inclusion of tourism in the development agenda.

Fostering knowledge, education and capacity building: Supporting countries to assess and address their needs in education and training, as well as providing networks for knowledge creation and exchange.

Building partnerships: Engaging with the private sector, regional and local tourism organizations, academia and research institutions, civil society and the UN system to build a more sustainable, responsible and competitive tourism sector.


The worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, and tourism is the worst affected of all major economic sectors. Against a backdrop of heightened uncertainty, up-to-date and reliable information is more important than ever, both for tourists and for the tourism sector. UNWTO´s priorities shifted towards recovery of tourism increasing its efforts:

-         By cooperating closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), the lead UN agency for the management of this outbreak;

-         by ensuring with WHO that health measures are implemented in ways that minimize unnecessary impact on international travel and trade;

-         by standing in solidarity with affected countries; and

-         by emphasizing tourism’s proven resilience and by standing ready to support recovery.

UNWTO COVID-19 Resources

Sustainability as the new normal - To mark World Environment Day, the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme led by UNWTO announces its new vision for global tourism– growing better, stronger, and balancing the needs of people, planet and prosperity.

Tourism Recovery - Governments have responded quickly and strongly with the level and coverage of measures steeping up over time. Most countries have adopted economy-wide stimulus packages (fiscal and monetary measures) along with job support measures.

Restarting Tourism - At its fifth meeting, UNWTO changed the emphasis towards restarting tourism. The Committee endorsed UNWTO’s Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism, an action plan focused on the Priorities for Tourism Recovery.

Recovery for Action - Supporting Jobs and Economies Through Travel & Tourism. A Call for Action to Mitigate the Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19 and Accelerate Recovery

Travel Restrictions - This latest research shows that while discussions on possible first measures for lifting restrictions are underway, 100% of destinations worldwide still have COVID-19 related travel restrictions for international tourists in place.

Tourism Recovery Tracker - As tourism slowly restarts in an increasing number of countries, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has developed the first comprehensive tourism recovery tracker worldwide, monitoring a number of relevant indicators throughout the recovery of tourism.

Latest impact assessment - The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer monitors short-term tourism trends on a regular basis to provide global tourism stakeholders with up-to-date analysis on international tourism.

Plastics and COVID-19 - A new set of Recommendations published today outline how the global tourism sector can continue in its fight against plastic pollution while effectively facing the public health and hygiene challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourism Recovery Technical Assistance Package - We are facing an unprecedented global health crisis, the repercussions of which are being felt in all sectors of society and the economy.

Knowledge - Improve your skills and knowledge by joining the webinars delivered by UNWTO and those created and delivered directly by our partner Institutions and experts. You can join Live Webinars or come back to them in our Recorded Webinars’ section.

UNWTO Global Tourism Dashboard - Loss of 850 million to 1.1 billon international tourists. Loss of US$ 910 billion to US$ 1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism. 100 to 120 million jobs at risk

Measures to support tourism - This compilation of country and international policy responses aims to share and monitor worldwide measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 crisis in the travel and tourism sector and accelerate recovery.

Supporting Recovery - UNWTO calls for solid international leadership and for tourism to be included as a priority in future recovery efforts

Health advice for tourists - As the COVID-19 situation evolves, many people around the world continue to travel: for leisure, for business and for vital humanitarian reasons.

Know the Impact - International tourism has seen continued expansion, despite occasional shocks, demonstrating the sector’s strength and resilience and benefiting all regions in the world.


UNWTO Tourism Regions UNWTO Tourism Regions.svg
UNWTO Tourism Regions

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has long considered the public and private sector to be integral partners in fulfilling its general mandate of promoting sustainable development in tourism. In addition, UNWTO is the only agency of the United Nations that has private sector members that participate in the governance structure. We believe that the public and private sectors share many common objectives which, in today´s globalized world, can be more effectively tackled through collaboration and the establishment of partnerships.

UNWTO members have endorsed the Management Vision and Priorities of the Secretary-General which seeks to position tourism as a policy priority, lead in knowledge creation, enhance the Organization’s capacity through building new and stronger partnerships, and offer better value for existing Members while also expanding membership.

“It is absolutely crucial to work towards the enhancement of a new generation of partnerships, partnerships not only with governments, not only with civil society and academia but equally partnerships with the business community in the context of the perspective of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, creating the conditions for an inclusive and sustainable development – the best way to prevent crises and conflicts in today’s world”. António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General

To realize the Management Vision, UNWTO’s work is based around five distinct pillars:

  1. making tourism smarter through celebrating innovation and leading the digital transformation of the sector;
  2. making tourism more competitive at every level through promoting investment and promoting entrepreneurship;
  3. creating more and better jobs and providing relevant training;
  4. building resilience and promoting safe and seamless travel; and
  5. harnessing tourism’s unique potential to protect cultural and natural heritage and to support communities both economically and socially.

Membership of the UNWTO includes 158 [3] states, [4] six territories (Flemish Community (1997), Puerto Rico (2002), Aruba (1987), Hong Kong (1999), Macau (1981), Madeira (1995)), [5] and two permanent observers (Holy See (1979), Palestine (1999)). Seventeen state members have withdrawn from the organization for different periods in the past: Australia (citing poor value for money), Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada (Canada withdrew from the World Tourism Organization when it appointed Robert Mugabe as a leader in 2013), Costa Rica, El Salvador, Grenada, Honduras, Kuwait, Latvia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Thailand, United Kingdom and Puerto Rico (as an associate member).[ citation needed ] The Netherlands Antilles was an associate member before its dissolution.

Non-members are: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Comoros, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United States.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) rejoined the organization in May 2013, 26 years after having left UNWTO. [6]

Additionally, and uniquely for a United Nations specialized agency, UNWTO has over 500 affiliate members, representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities, non-governmental entities with specialised interests in tourism, and commercial and non-commercial bodies and associations with activities related to the aims of UNWTO or falling within its competence.


NameYears of Tenure
Flag of France.svg Robert Lonati 1975–1985
Flag of Austria.svg Willibald Pahr 1986–1989
Flag of Mexico.svg Antonio Enriquez Savignac 1990–1996
Flag of France.svg Francesco Frangialli 1997–2009
Flag of Jordan.svg Taleb Rifai 2010–2017
Flag of Georgia.svg Zurab Pololikashvili [7] 2018–


General Assembly

The General Assembly is the principal gathering of the World Tourism Organization. It meets every two years to approve the budget and programme of work and to debate topics of vital importance to the tourism sector. Every four years it elects a Secretary-General. The General Assembly is composed of full members and associate members. Affiliate members and representatives of other international organizations participate as observers. [8] The World Committee on Tourism Ethics is a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly. [9]

Executive Council

The Executive Council is UNWTO's governing board, responsible for ensuring that the Organization carries out its work and adheres to its budget. It meets at least twice a year and is composed of members elected by the General Assembly in a ratio of one for every five full members. As host country of UNWTO's headquarters, Spain has a permanent seat on the Executive Council. Representatives of the associate members and affiliate members participate in Executive Council meetings as observers. [10]


Specialized committees of UNWTO members advise on management and programme content. These include: the Programme Committee, the Committee on Budget and Finance, the Committee on Statistics and the Tourism Satellite Account, the Committee on Market and Competitiveness, the Sustainable Development of Tourism Committee, the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, the Committee on Poverty Reduction and the Committee for the Review of applications for affiliate membership. [11]


The Secretariat is responsible for implementing UNWTO's programme of work and serving the needs of members and affiliate members. The group is led by Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili of Georgia, who supervises about 110 full-time staff at UNWTO's Madrid headquarters. The Secretariat also includes a regional support office for Asia-Pacific in Osaka, Japan, financed by the Japanese Government, [12] and a liaison office in Geneva as UNWTO's representation to the UN System, the World Trade Organization, and other diplomatic organizations in Switzerland. [13]

Official languages

The official languages of UNWTO are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. [14] [15]


Key tourism statistics Tourism Facts & Figures.jpg
Key tourism statistics
Visa Openness Report

UNWTO research concluded that, by improving visa processes and entry formalities, G20 economies could boost their international tourist numbers by 122 million, tourism exports by US$2016 billion and employment by 5 million. [16]

The Organization's latest UNWTO Visa Openness Report, published in 2016, shows the highest ever percentage of international tourists not requiring a visa to travel - 39% compared with 23% in 2008. [17] The report concluded that the 30 countries whose citizens were least affected by visa restrictions in 2015 were (based on the data compiled by the UNWTO, based on information from national official institutions): [18]

Least restricted citizens
RankCountryMobility index (out of 215 with no visa weighted by 1, visa on arrival weighted by 0.7, eVisa by 0.5 and traditional visa weighted by 0)
1Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark, Flag of Finland.svg  Finland, Flag of Germany.svg  Germany, Flag of Italy.svg  Italy, Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg, Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore, Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 160
8Flag of France.svg  France, Flag of Japan.svg  Japan Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands, Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea, Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden, Flag of the United States.svg  United States 159
14Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium, Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada, Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland, Flag of Norway.svg  Norway, Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal, Flag of Spain.svg  Spain, Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 158
21Flag of Austria.svg  Austria, Flag of Greece.svg  Greece, Flag of Malta.svg  Malta 157
24Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic, Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 156
26Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary, Flag of Iceland.svg  Iceland, Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia 155
29Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia, Flag of Slovakia.svg  Slovakia 154

See also

Related Research Articles

Tourism Travel for recreational or leisure purposes

Tourism is travel for pleasure or business; also the theory and practice of touring, the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours. The World Tourism Organization defines tourism more generally, in terms which go "beyond the common perception of tourism as being limited to holiday activity only", as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure and not less than 24 hours, business and other purposes". Tourism can be domestic or international, and international tourism has both incoming and outgoing implications on a country's balance of payments.

United Nations Industrial Development Organization Specialised agency of the United Nations

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that assists countries in economic and industrial development. It is headquartered at the UN Office in Vienna, Austria, with a permanent presence in over 60 countries. As of April 2019, UNIDO comprises 170 member states, which together set the organization's policies, programs, and principles through the biannual General Conference.

Sustainable tourism Form of travel without damage to nature or cultural area

Sustainable tourism is the tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. Tourism can involve primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping. It can be related to travel for leisure, business and what is called VFR. There is now broad consensus that tourism development should be sustainable.

World Travel and Tourism Council

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is a forum for the travel and tourism industry. It is made up of members from the global business community and works with governments to raise awareness about the travel and tourism industry. It is known for being the only forum to represent the private sector in all parts of the industry worldwide. Its activities include research on the economic and social impact of the industry and its organisation of global and regional summits focused on issues and developments relevant to the industry.

United Nations Sustainable Development Group

The United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), previously the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), is a consortium of 36 United Nations funds, programs, specialized agencies, departments and offices that play a role in development. It was created by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in order to improve the effectiveness of United Nations development activities at the country level.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Government organization in New York, United States

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is part of the United Nations Secretariat and is responsible for the follow-up to major United Nations Summits and Conferences, as well as services to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the Second and Third Committees of the United Nations General Assembly. UN DESA assists countries around the world in agenda-setting and decision-making with the goal of meeting their economic, social and environmental challenges. It supports international cooperation to promote sustainable development for all, having as a foundation the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015. In providing a broad range of analytical products, policy advice, and technical assistance, UN DESA effectively translates global commitments in the economic, social and environmental spheres into national policies and actions and continues to play a key role in monitoring progress towards internationally agreed-upon development goals. It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is a membership association working to promote the responsible development of travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region.

The European Travel Commission (ETC) is an association of National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) based in Brussels. It was created in 1948 to promote Europe as a tourist destination to long-haul markets outside of Europe, originally the US and later Canada, Latin America and Asia-Pacific. ETC currently has 33 member NTOs and 14 associate members from the private industry. The association aims to raise awareness of the importance of tourism among national European authorities and the general public through sharing best practices and cooperation in market intelligence and promotion.

Tourism in Vietnam

Tourism in Vietnam is a component of the modern Vietnamese economy. In 2019, Vietnam received 18 million international arrivals, up from 2.1 million in the year 2000. The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism is following a long-term plan to diversify the tourism industry, which brings foreign exchange into the country.

Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises

The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, commonly abbreviated to SETE (ΣΕΤΕ), is a non-governmental, non-profit organization founded in 1991. It is the representative Association for unions of tourism enterprises in Greece, as well as independent companies operating across the broader tourism sector.

Taleb Rifai

Taleb Rifai is a Jordanian who was the Secretary-General of the United Nations' World Tourism Organization, based in Madrid, Spain, until the 31st of December 2017, having held the post since being unanimously elected in 2010. The first Jordanian to hold a UN agency Secretary General position.

The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) is an inter-governmental organization established in 1973 under the auspices of the United Nations and operating within the framework of successive International Cocoa Agreements.

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Gloria Guevara

Gloria Guevara Manzo is a business executive with experience in the private and public sectors. She was Secretary of Tourism for Mexico from March 10, 2010 to November 30, 2012. Guevara began her professional career at NCR Corporation in 1989 and worked in the IT industry in various roles, working for North America, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa regions. Since 1995 she has worked for Travel and Tourism in different capacities for Sabre Holdings, the Mexican Government, as independent and currently she is CEO of WTTC.

International tourism Travel for pleasure or business that crosses national borders

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Zurab Pololikashvili 6th Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization

Zurab Pololikashvili is a Georgian politician and diplomat, currently serving as Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization. From 2005 to 2009 he was Georgian deputy Foreign Minister, and he served as ambassador to Spain, Morocco, Algeria and Andorra.

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Sustainable Development Goals and Ghana Set of 17 global development goals defined by the United Nations for the year 2030

The Sustainable Development Goals and Ghana describes how the Sustainable Development Goals are being implemented in Ghana. The SDGs are also known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and are a set of seventeen global goals for 169 specific areas developed by the United Nations. The Sustainable Development Goals were formed in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Its aimed to produce a set of universal goals claimed to meet the urgent environmental, economic and political problems facing the world.

Sustainable Development Goals and Nigeria Set of 17 global development goals defined by the United Nations for the year 2030

Sustainable Development Goals and Nigeria is about how Nigeria is implementing the Sustainable Development Goals within the thirty-six states and its Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) consist of seventeen global goals designed as a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all". Each of the 17 goals is expected to be achieved by 2030 in every country around the world.


  1. "Global Code of Ethics for Tourism". World Tourism Organization. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  2. "Home | UNWTO". Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  3. "Who we are | World Tourism Organization UNWTO".
  4. "Member States" . Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  5. territories or groups of territories not responsible for their external relations but whose membership is approved by the state assuming responsibility for their external relations.
  6. "The United Arab Emirates joins the World Tourism Organization - World Tourism Organization UNWTO".
  7. "UNWTO Executive Council recommends Zurab Pololikashvili for Secretary-General for the period 2018-2021 - World Tourism Organization UNWTO".
  8. "General Assembly - World Tourism Organization UNWTO".
  9. "General Assembly" . Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  10. "Executive Council" . Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  11. "Committees" . Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  12. "UNWTO Secretary-General welcomes Japan's support for tourism when meeting with Prime Minister Abe - World Tourism Organization UNWTO".
  13. "UNWTO in International Geneva - World Tourism Organization UNWTO".
  14. "Chinese to become official language of World Tourism Organization". Minsk: Belarusian Telegraph Agency. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  15. "Language Services". Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  16. The Impact of Visa Facilitation on Job Creation in the G20 Economies: Report prepared for the 4th T20 Ministers' Meeting, Mexico, 15–16 May 2012. 2012. doi:10.18111/9789284414727. ISBN   9789284414727.
  17. Visa openness report 2015. 2016. doi:10.18111/9789284417384. ISBN   9789284417384.
  18. "Visa Openness Report 2016" (PDF). World Tourism Organization. Retrieved 17 January 2016.

Further reading