World Tourism Organization

Updated: 2006-11-17 11:33


The World Tourism Organization had its beginnings as the International Congress of Official Tourist Traffic Associations set up in 1925 in The Hague. It was renamed the International Union of Official Travel Organisations (IUOTO) after World War II and moved to Geneva. IUOTO was a technical, non-governmental organization, whose membership at its peak included 109 National Tourist Organizations (NTOs) and 88 Associate Members, among them private and public groups.

As tourism grew and became an integral part of the fabric of modern life, its international dimension increased and national governments started to play an increasingly important role- their activities covering the whole spectrum from infrastructure to regulations. By the mid-1960s, it became clear that there was a need for more effective tools to keep developments under review and to provide tourism with intergovernmental machinery especially equipped to deal with the movement of persons, tourism policies and tourism's impacts.

In 1967, the members of IUOTO called for its transformation into an intergovernmental body empowered to deal on a worldwide basis with all matters concerning tourism and to cooperate with other competent organizations, particularly those of the United Nations' system, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), UNESCO, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

A resolution to the same effect was passed in December 1969 by the UN General Assembly, which recognized the decisive and central role the transformed IUOTO should play in the field of world tourism in cooperation with the existing machinery within the UN. Following this resolution, the UNWTO's Statutes were ratified in 1974 by the States whose official tourist organizations were members of IUOTO.

Thus IUOTO became the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and its first General Assembly was held in Madrid in May 1975. The Secretariat was installed in Madrid early the following year at the invitation of the Spanish Government, which provides a building for the Headquarters.

In 1976, UNWTO became an executing agency of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and in 1977, a formal cooperation agreement was signed with the United Nations itself. In 2003, the UNWTO was converted into a specialized agency of the United Nations and reaffirmed its leading role in international tourism.

Since its early years, UNWTO's membership and influence in world tourism have continued to grow. By 2005, its membership included 145 countries, seven territories and some 350 Affiliate Members, representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.


(For more biz stories, please visit Industry Updates)