World Tourism Organization (WTO)

  • Post last modified:23 February 2023
  • Reading time:14 mins read
  • Post category:Hospitality

World Tourism Organization (WTO)

The World Tourism Organization (WTO), an inter–governmental technical body dealing with all aspects of tourism began its legal existence on January 2, 1975. It was formed owing to the transformation of IUOTO and was called upon to succeed it.

The swift expansion of travel had created the need for a world body able to deal with tourism problems at the government level and this led to the transformation of IUOTO into WTO. The headquarters of the organization were set up in Madrid (Spain) in January 1976.

The activities of the organization cover all sectors of tourism on a worldwide basis. WTO works in cooperation with all international organizations, the United Nations in particular, as well as with commercial and non–commercial bodies involved in tourism.

The WTO has a very emphatic technical character. The World Tourism Organization was originally conceived as an inter– governmental organization in a UN General Assembly resolution on December 6, 1969.

This resolution called for the establishment of WTO to play a “central and decisive role” in the field of tourism and to maintain effective collaboration with the appropriate organs of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. At Torremolinos, in June 1977, the second General Assembly of WTO approved an Agreement with the United Nations for Cooperation and Relationship.

On 20th December 1977, the 32nd General Assembly of the UN approved this Agreement, which is now in force. In immediate implementation of this Agreement, the UN General Assembly in December 1977 also approved a resolution sponsored by the Philippines with 24 cosponsors, including India, requesting the WTO “to intensify its efforts to promote tourism, particularly in the developing countries, through international cooperation and to report to the General Assembly at its 33rd session on action taken”.

The WTO became an executing agency of the UNDP in May 1976. A few months later, UNDP Resident Representatives throughout the world became WTO representatives for all matters concerning technical cooperation in the field of tourism.


The aims of the organization are defined in Article 3 of the Statute, which is divided into the following three sections :

  • The fundamental aim of the organization shall be the promotion and development of tourism with a view to contributing to economic development, international understanding, peace, prosperity and universal respect for and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction to either race, sex, language or religion. The organization shall take all appropriate action to attain this objective.

  • In pursuing this aim, the organization shall pay particular attention to the interests of the developing countries in the field of tourism.

  • In order to establish its central role in the field of tourism the organization shall establish and maintain effective collaboration with the appropriate organs of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. In this connection, the Organization shall seek a cooperative relationship with and participation in the activities of the United Nations Development Programme as a participating and executing agency.


There are three categories of members of the organization. The categories are :

  • Full Members
  • Associate Members
  • Affiliate Members

Full Members are all the sovereign states. Associate Members are the 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.

Affiliate Members are international bodies, both inter– governmental and non–governmental concerned with specialized interests intourism, as well as commercial and non–commercial bodies and associations whose activities are related to the aims of WTO or fall within its competence.


The WTO performs a number of activities for its members relating to promotion and development of tourism. The major activities include the following :

  • Continual review of tourism trends and developments and exercising watchfulness over alterations in world social and economic conditions that affecting tourism, market fluctuations and maintenance of standards within the tourism sector.

  • Clearing house for all available information on international and domestic tourism including statistical data, legislation and regulations, facilities and special events.

  • Systematic collection, analysis and dissemination of data on various aspects of tourism

  • Collating legislative texts, regulations and documentation with regard to all aspects of travel

  • Conducting research studies covering tourism markets, plant and enterprises, physical planning and area development, promotion and marketing, economic analysis and financing techniques etc.

  • Regular supply of studies, and updated information on developments in the various fields of tourism to its members

  • Fostering the adoption of measures in cooperation with competent specialized bodies regarding simplifying frontier formalities and removing barriers to the free movement of a tourist

  • Organizing and convening international conferences, seminars, workshops, round tables and technical meetings on all aspects of tourism.

  • Preparing draft international agreements on tourism

  • Examining vocational training programmes with a view to contributing to the establishment of suitable teaching programmes tailored to specific needs, especially in the developing countries.

WTO permanent activities include the collection and updating of available information on training needs and special activities include participation intechnical cooperation projects for vocational training. Through its international centre for Advanced Tourism Studies (CIEST), it provides a comprehensive range of vocational training and permanent education programmes by correspondence and residential study circles.

WTO Functioning–WTO functions through its various organs. The responsibilities of these organs are well defined within the framework of the organization. The three main organs through which the WTO functions are :

  • General Assembly
  • Executive Council
  • The Secretariat

General Assembly

The General Assembly is the supreme organ of the organization. It is also the sovereign body of the WTO. The General Assembly is composed of delegates representing full members, associate members and representatives of Affiliate Members. It meets every two years and may consider any question and make recommendations on any matter within the competence of WTO.

It approves the organization’s general programme of work and provides general guidelines for the administration of the Organization.

Subsidiary Organs

The General Assembly has created six subsidiary organs in the form of Regional Commissions. These are as follows :

  • WTO Commission for Africa (CAF)
  • WTO Commission for the Americas (CAM)
  • WTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific (CAP)
  • WTO Commission for South Asia (CSA)
  • WTO Commission for Europe (CEU)
  • WTO Commission for Middle East (CME)

The task of the above six Regional Commissions of WTO set up by the General Assembly, is to implement the technical tourism recommendations of the Assembly in their respective regions. The Regional Commissions ensure the implementation within their respective regions, of the decisions and recommendations of the General Assembly and the Executive Council.

Theyfunction and operate within the framework of the organization. The Regional Secretariats, which are the integral part of the WTO Secretariat, help the Regional Commissions in organizing and convening their conferences and meetings.

Executive Council

The Executive Council consists of Full Members elected by the Assembly at a ratio of one member for every five Full Members of the WTO Organization with a view to achieving fair and equitable geographical distribution. One Associate Member selected by the Associate Members of WTO and a representative of the Committee of Affiliate Members may participate in the work of the Executive Council without a right to vote.

The Executive Council’s task is to take all necessary measures in consultation with the Secretary General, for implementing the resolutions of the General Assembly. Composed of twenty–one Full members selected by the Assembly and Spain in its capacity as a Privileged Member, the council meets at least twice a year.

Subsidiary Organs

The Executive Council has created subsidiary organs. These are as follows :

  • Technical Committee for Programme and Coordination (TCPC)
  • Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF)
  • Facilitation Committee
  • Environment Committee
  • Sub–Committee for the review of applications for affiliate membership
  • Sub–Committee on Statistics
  • Joint WTO–IATA Working Party

The subsidiary organs of the Council meet on a regular basis to discuss matters falling within their competence and on which they report to the coined.


The Secretariat of the Organization consists of the Secretary General and the staff members. The Secretary General is responsible for carrying out the general policy and work programme of the organization in accordance with the directions of the General Assembly and the Executive Council.

The Secretary General ensures the legal representation of the organization. The present structure of the Secretariat comprises general management, one division (relations, cooperation and development), three services, (generaladministration, finance, conferences and documents), six sections (personnel, statistics, studies, Africa /Middle East, the Americas/Europe, East Asia and Pacific/South Asia) and four units (technical cooperation, vocational training, public information and publications, documentation and technical information).

The Organization is performing extremely useful service of a concrete and creative character by facilitating the exchange of technical information, the making of specialized studies, the holding of special seminars adapted to world regional requirements and advanced vocational training courses.

The essentially practical nature of its work programme, tailored as it is to regional requirements, takes full cognizance of the problems peculiar to countries and regions in all stages of development, such as investments, financial questions, physical planning and area development, economic analysis, marketing and market surveys–all this not only with a secretarial approach but with a comprehensive concern from the point of vim of the state.

The creation of WTO coincided with the universal recognition of tourism as an important instrument of economic and social development and its consequent ascendancy to full government responsibility. An inter–governmental body of tourism officials, such as the WTO is empowered to act in the name of their governments and speak in terms of the impact of tourism on the balance of payments.

The creation of WTO thus is not only a proof that the states are fully conscious of their own responsibilities in the field of tourism, but also of the establishment of tourism to its rightful ranking at the international level. The WTO’s activities cover all sectors of tourism on a worldwide basis.

It provides an international forum where tourism officials, whether governmental or non–governmental, can discuss problems and exchange ideas. Representatives of the private sector also have access to its membership. WTO works in close cooperation with almost all international organizations, the United Nations’ organizations in particular, as well as with commercial and non–commercial bodies involved in tourism.

Leave a Reply