Multi-Lateral Summaries > World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations, and the leading international organization in the field of tourism. It serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how. UNWTO’s mission is to promote and develop tourism as a significant means of fostering international peace and understanding, economic development and international trade.

UNWTO plays a central and decisive role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, paying particular attention to the interests of developing countries. Its membership includes 155 Member States and 7 territories and around 400 affiliate members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.

Direct actions that strengthen and support the efforts of national tourism administrations are carried out by UNWTO’s Regional Representations (Africa, the Americas, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia) based at the Headquarters in Madrid.

UNWTO is committed to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), geared toward reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development.

TCB-related programme

UNWTO believes that a progressive liberalization of trade in tourism services can contribute to sustainable tourism development and thus to the alleviation of poverty, particularly if liberalization is achieved under fair and transparent conditions where developing and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are given an equitable share of benefits.

Encouraging travel will strengthen two-way trade, promoting essential foreign exchange income for the poorest countries and improving the performance of global suppliers. It will support consumer and business confidence, create jobs and put a green economy into action.

Through Aid-for-Trade, a World Trade Organization (WTO) development assistance programme, countries can strengthen their negotiation capacities in order to maximize their trade opportunities. Tourism is one of the areas where requesting and providing such assistance is feasible, and several countries have already included tourism in their aid-for-trade strategy. Another mechanism, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)1, a multi-donor programme, which supports LDCs to be more active players in the global trading system by helping them tackle supply-side constraints to trade, is an avenue whereby many LDCs have already expressed serious interest in including tourism in their overall development strategies.


UNWTO projects are implemented through funding obtained from a variety of major donor agencies, such as the European Commission, UNDP, the World Bank, the ADB, several bilateral donors and others. UNWTO has observer status with the WTO on issues regarding trade in tourism services. Additional advocacy and promotion of tourism as a trade in service is coordinated through the joint UN inter-agency initiative of the Steering Committee on Tourism for Development.

United Nations Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD)2: In 2010, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) launched an initiative for a more cohesive approach to tourism development at the international level and as well to ‘Delivering as One’ to ensure a more effective development assistance and to accelerate progress towards the MDGs. Since then, the UNWTO-led initiative with eight other UN agencies and programmes (ILO, ITC, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNIDO, WTO) have come together to coordinate their tourism-related work under the UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD). [more details below under “Inter-Agency Coordination Mechanisms”] 3 4

Examples of projects

  • Hotel Energy Solutions (HES)3 a UNWTO-initiated project made possible by the support of Intelligent Energy Europe, and implemented in close partnership with UNEP, IH&RA, EREC and ADEME has a goal to increase energy efficiency by 20% and the use of renewable energies by 10% in small and medium enterprise (SME) accommodations across the EU, demonstrating that economic growth and the environment can and should go hand in hand. The HES toolkit, available online and free of charge, is currently used as well as adapted in number of destinations worldwide.
  • UNIDO is the lead partner in the joint COAST (Collaborative Actions for Sustainable Tourism) Project4 in which UNWTO is collaborating. The Project is a Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded project on Coastal Tourism in 9 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles and Tanzania. The project’s main objective is to demonstrate best practices and strategies for sustainable tourism development so as to reduce the degradation of marine and coastal environments of trans-boundary significance. Within the framework of the project, UNWTO is responsible for the components on “eco-tourism development in coastal areas”, and “sustainable tourism governance and management”.

Inter-Agency Cooperation Mechanisms

Delivering as One: the UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD)

The United Nations is committed to ‘Delivering as One’ to ensure a more effective development assistance and to accelerate progress towards the MDGs. Against this background, on the initiative of UNWTO with eight other UN agencies and programmes – International Labour Organization (ILO), International Trade Centre (ITC), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Industrial Organization (UNIDO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Trade Organization (WTO) – each have come together to coordinate their tourism-related work under the UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD).

The SCTD builds on the strengths and expertise of its different members to support developing countries in the area of tourism for sustainable development. By joining forces, the nine UN entities aim to deliver a more coordinated, effective and efficient technical assistance and support developing countries’ needs by boosting tourism’s development potential for the poorest and most disadvantaged. The SCTD also aims to raise international awareness of tourism as an instrument for sustainable development and increase support for its mainstreaming in national and international development and poverty reduction strategies.

The SCTD provides specialized tourism assistance aimed to maximize tourism’s capacity to support countries in reaching their development goals, while preserving their cultural and environmental assets.

The particular services related to Tourism for Development available to least developed countries (LDCs) and developing countries; include over 50 types of services organized around five pillars:

  • Building good governance and sustainability in all its dimensions – social development, economic growth;
  • Cultural and environmental protection;
  • Addressing trade and investment;
  • Employment and capacity building;
  • Socio-economic dimensions including poverty reduction and sustainability of natural and cultural resources.

For the first time in history, the SCTD is well-placed within the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) Roadmap and the international development agenda to facilitate the implementation of tourism for development for the next programming decade and beyond. The SCTD has identified among existing resources the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)5 – an Aid-for-Trade mechanism for LDCs – as a key source of funding to support the delivery of an integrated service for tourism.

As an innovative institutional framework for Delivering as One for Tourism, the SCTD will further enhance each member agency and programme’s strengths and capacity to identify and mobilise financial resources necessary to respond to developing countries’ needs while also exploring the possibility of creating a Multi-Donors Trust Fund for sustainable tourism development in the future – one that is safe, inclusive and sustainable for future generations, and looks beyond the first round of MDGs towards a more focused, yet multi-faceted global development agenda.

TCB activities in this guide


  • Advocate for trade liberalization
  • SCTD Capacity Building


  • Worldwide technical cooperation


  • Worldwide technical cooperation
  • ST-EP initiative


  • Worldwide technical cooperation
  • Global Sustainable Tourism Council and criteria
  • UNWTO.TedQual Certification System


  • Worldwide technical cooperation
  • ETC/UNWTO Handbook on E-Marketing for Tourism Destinations


  • Competitiveness and trade in tourism services
  • Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account
  • UNWTO World Tourism Barometer
  • UNWTO Tourism Towards 2030
  • Compendium of Tourism Statistics (2012 edition)
  • UNWTO/ETC Handbook on Tourism Forecasting Methodologies
  • UNWTO/ETC Handbook on Tourism Product Development

5 The EIF is a multilateral trade capacity development initiative that supports LDCs to become more active in the global trading system –