UN Tourism

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UN Tourism
AbbreviationUN Tourism
Formation1 November 1975 (48 years ago) (1975-11-01)
TypeUnited Nations specialized agency
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersMadrid, Spain
160 Member States[1]
Zurab Pololikashvili
Parent organization
United Nations
icon Politics portal

UN Tourism (UNWTO until 2023) is a specialized agency of the United Nations which promotes responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. Its headquarters are based in Madrid, Spain. Other offices include: a Regional Support Office for Asia and the Pacific in Nara, Japan[2] and a Regional Office for West Asia in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

UN Tourism promotes tourism and serves as a global forum for tourism policy and a source of tourism research and knowledge. It encourages Competitiveness, Innovation, Education, Investments & Digital Transformation, Ethics, Culture & Social Responsibility, Technical Cooperation, UN Tourism Academy, and Statistics.[3]

The six official languages of UN Tourism 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 tourist arrivals reached 1.5 billion in 2019. Against a backdrop of heightened uncertainty, UN Tourism conveyed the Global Tourism Crisis Committee to guide the tourism sector as it faced up to the COVID-19 challenge.

From its inception in 1975 until 2023, UN Tourism was called the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).[4]


UNWTO Tourism Regions

UN Tourism has 160 Member States,[5][6] six associate members (Aruba, Flanders, Hong Kong, Macao, Madeira and Puerto Rico),[7] and two observers (Holy See (1979), Palestine (1999)).

Nonmembers are: Australia, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Tonga, Tuvalu, the United Kingdom and the United States. Seventeen state members have withdrawn from the organization for different periods in the past including Australia (citing poor value for money), Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada (Canada withdrew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.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) rejoined the organization in May 2013, 26 years after having left UN Tourism.[8]

Additionally, UN Tourism has over 500 affiliate members, including non-governmental entities with specialised interests in tourism, and commercial and non-commercial bodies and associations with activities related to the aims of UN Tourism or falling within its competence.

On 2 April 2022, Russia announced it would leave UN Tourism, and the organization subsequently voted the same day to suspend Russia in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[9]


Name Years of Tenure
France Robert Lonati 1975–1985
Austria Willibald Pahr 1986–1989
Mexico Antonio Enriquez Savignac 1990–1996
France Francesco Frangialli 1997–2009
Jordan Taleb Rifai 2010–2017
Georgia (country) Zurab Pololikashvili[10] 2018–

As host country of UN Tourism'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.[11]


  • UNWTO Annual Report
  • UN Tourism World Tourism Barometer
  • UNWTO Declarations
  • Knowledge Network Issues Paper Series

Tourism Data Dashboard[edit]

UN Tourism releases its Tourism Data Dashboard which "provides statistics and insights on key indicators for inbound and outbound tourism at the global, regional and national levels. Data covers tourist arrivals, tourism share of exports and contribution to GDP, source markets, seasonality and accommodation (data on number of rooms, guest and nights)."[12]

Visa Openness Report[edit]

UN Tourism 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.[13]

The Organization's latest UN Tourism 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.[14] 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 UN Tourism, based on information from national official institutions):[15]

Least restricted citizens
Rank Country Mobility 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)
1  Denmark,  Finland,  Germany,  Italy,  Luxembourg,  Singapore,  United Kingdom 160
8  France,  Japan  Netherlands,  South Korea,  Sweden,  United States 159
14  Belgium,  Canada,  Ireland,  Norway,  Portugal,  Spain,   Switzerland 158
21  Austria,  Greece,  Malta 157
24  Czech Republic,  New Zealand 156
26  Hungary,  Iceland,  Malaysia 155
29  Australia,  Slovakia 154

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Member States". www.unwto.org. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  2. ^ "UNWTO Regional Support Office for Asia and the Pacific". Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  3. ^ "Home | UNWTO". www.unwto.org. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  4. ^ "UNWTO Becomes "UN Tourism" to Mark A New Era for Global Sector". UN Tourism. 23 January 2024. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  5. ^ "Who we are | World Tourism Organization UNWTO".
  6. ^ "Member States". Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "The United Arab Emirates joins the World Tourism Organization". World Tourism Organization UNWTO. 8 May 2013. Archived from the original on 15 March 2018.
  9. ^ Pons, Corina; Khalip, Andrei (27 April 2022). "UN tourism body chief says Russia quitting the organization". Regina Leader Post. Reuters. Archived from the original on 4 April 2024.
  10. ^ "UNWTO Executive Council recommends Zurab Pololikashvili for Secretary-General for the period 2018-2021". World Tourism Organization UNWTO. 12 May 2017. Archived from the original on 8 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Executive Council". World Tourism Organization UNWTO. Archived from the original on 5 February 2016. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  12. ^ "The UN Tourism Data Dashboard". UNWTO. Archived from the original on 25 October 2023.
  13. ^ 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. UNWTO and WTTC. 2012. doi:10.18111/9789284414727. ISBN 9789284414727.
  14. ^ Visa openness report 2015. 2016. doi:10.18111/9789284417384. ISBN 9789284417384.
  15. ^ "Visa Openness Report 2016" (PDF). World Tourism Organization. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jafari, J. (1974). Creation of the intergovernmental world tourism organization. Annals of Tourism Research, 2, (5), 237–245.
  • United Nations General Assembly. (1969). General assembly – twenty fourth session.
  • United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2007). About UNWTO.
  • World Tourism Organization. (2003). WTO news, 2003 (3). Madrid: World Tourism Organization.
  • "World Tourism Organization changes its abbreviation to UNWTO". UNWTO Press and Communications. 1 December 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2008.

External links[edit]