the World Tourism Organization  

The World Tourism Organization is the leading international organization in the field of travel and tourism. It serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how. WTO's membership includes 144 countries and territories and more than 350 Affiliate Members representing local government, education and research institutes, tourism associations and private sector companies, including airlines, hotel groups and tour operators.

With its headquarters in Madrid, Spain WTO is an inter-governmental body entrusted by the United Nations towards the promotion and development of tourism. Through tourism, WTO aims to stimulate economic growth and job creation, provide incentives for protecting the environment and heritage of destinations, and promote peace and understanding among all the nations of the world.

WTO Activities

Regional Representations and Programme Activity Sections of WTO work in the various fields of tourism. The knowledge and information generated are disseminated through publications, conferences, seminars, workshops and other meetings, as well as the WTO website.

Cooperation for Development
Acting on requests from Member Governments, WTO secures financing, locates the world's leading experts, and carries out all types of tourism development projects of small and large scales. The Organization was also designated as the official executing agency for UNDP-funded tourism development plans and projects.

Statistics and Market Research
WTO is the world's most complete and reliable source of global and regional tourism statistics, economic analysis, market trends and forecasts. WTO sets international standards for tourism measurement and reporting, including the development and testing of the Tourism Satellite Account System to allow a more accurate measurement of the economic impacts of tourism in national economies.

Human Resources Development
In cooperation with its network of Education and Training Centres throughout the world, WTO sets global standards for tourism education. The TEDQUAL (Tourism Education Quality) methodology, developed by WTO, helps member governments and tourism enterprises assess their needs and create tourism education and training programmes. Another regular task of the Section is the organization of practicum courses for tourism officials of member countries.

Quality of Tourism Development
Liberalization, health and safety reflect the broad and inter-connected range of issues related to improving the quality of tourism services. WTO is working towards the removal of barriers to tourism and is encouraging the liberalization of trade in tourism services, meanwhile respecting the principles of sustainable development. Major projects in this field are the Global Codes of Ethics for Tourism, approved by the UN, and the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.

Communications, Publication and Documentation
The Communications Section acts as a contact point and coordinator for press and media purposes. WTO has its own Publications Unit, its Documentation Centre houses a wide range of tourism research and information sources.

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Sustainable Development of Tourism

In WTO's effort of generating know-how and disseminating information among its members and the international tourism community, the issues of sustainable development represent a high priority and its principles are applied in every WTO project. WTO's Sustainable Development of Tourism Section is involved in the following fields of activities and projects:

World Summit on Sustainable Development: WTO was present at the 1992 Rio Summit. It is one of the authors of the Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Sector (published in 1995), which is currently being revised for a new edition. WTO has been actively involved for the preparation of the Johannesburg (Rio+10) Summit by producing a number of evaluation reports and organizing a side event that will be held on the topic "Poverty Eradication and Tourism".

Planning for sustainable development of tourism: WTO has published various manuals for tourism planning at the national, regional and local levels, as well as organized a series of national seminars for local authorities in developing countries.

Indicators of sustainable tourism: As fundamental tools for the planning and monitoring of tourism development, WTO has been involved in this topic since 1992, conducting pilot studies, producing a manual and organizing a series of regional technical workshops for the identification and application of sustainability indicators of tourism.

Sustainable tourism at specific destinations: WTO has organized international and regional meetings, developed guidelines and practical methodology for the sustainable development and management of coastal, rural, and urban destinations, cultural and natural heritage sites. A series of special activities has been developed for assisting Small Island Developing States and other island destinations.

Voluntary initiatives for sustainable tourism: as certification systems, ecolabels, awards, self-commitments and other forms of voluntary regulation have gained increasing popularity and importance, WTO has conducted a world wide inventory and analysis of these initiatives, with the publication already available. Based on this study, the Organization supports a feasibility study on the establishment of a global accreditation body.

International Year of Ecotourism, 2002: This has been a major task of the Section to develop a wide range of activities at different levels, in the framework of this Year:
- Support of national activities undertaken in Member States
- Organization of 10 regional preparatory conferences, where more than 2200 stakeholders participated form different sectors and around 200 case studies were presented
- Facilitation, jointly with UNEP, of an ecotourism web-conference where nearly 1000 persons participated from 88 countries
- Co-organization of the World Ecotourism Summit

Preparation of technical publications on ecotourism:
- Sustainable Development of Ecotourism: A Compilation of Good Practices, containing 55 case studies from 39 countries, presented in a systematic manner
- Ecotourism Market Study Series, quantitative and qualitative analysis of seven ecotourism generating markets in North America and Europe (Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America)
- Guidelines for the Sustainable Development and Management of Tourism in National Parks and Protected Areas (revised edition, jointly with UNEP/WTO/IUCN)

Detailed information can be obtained on the above activities and documents in the WTO website:

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The World Tourism Organization and the International Year of Ecotourism

The International Year of Ecotourism demonstrates the United Nations' recognition of ecotourism's social and economic importance. The UN General Assembly wished to draw the attention of governments, and the international community, to the potential impacts (both positive and negative) of ecotourism on the natural environment, biodiversity conservation, and the social and cultural fabric of host communities. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) is coordinating a series of activities - leading up to and during the IYE - with UNEP and other international and regional organizations, as well as its Member States, Affiliate Members and other groups.

The ecotourism concept was adopted comparatively recently and is subject to various interpretations, some more accurate than others. On the occasion of the IYE, WTO and other collaborating parties have agreed that the ecotourism concept reflects "all forms of tourism in which the tourists' main motivation is the observation and appreciation of nature, that contribute to the conservation of, and that generate minimal impacts upon, the natural environment and the cultural heritage."

IYE will further efforts towards a generally acceptable interpretation of the term "ecotourism" and its more rigorous commercial application. Ecotourism operations should minimize negative impacts on the natural and socio-cultural environment and contribute to the conservation of natural areas by:
- generating economic benefits for host communities, organizations, and authorities managing natural areas for conservation purposes;
- providing alternative income opportunities for local communities; and
- increasing awareness of natural and cultural assets among local people and tourists.

As a market segment, ecotourism can be distinguished by tourists' motivations and the types of destinations and attractions that attract these visitors. It is a form of nature-based tourism and, as manifestations of traditional cultures are often found in areas visited by ecotourists, it is associated with cultural tourism.

While sustainability needs to be encouraged in all segments of the tourism industry, it is a much stronger imperative in the case of ecotourism. Nonetheless, unsustainable ecotourism is practiced throughout the world. They threaten the survival of the natural environment that is the basis of nature-based tourism, and they can undermine and can even discredit this type of travel.

The International Year of Ecotourism presents opportunities and challenges for the international community.

WTO has defined the following objectives for the Year
- to generate greater awareness among public authorities, the private sector, civil society and consumers regarding ecotourism's capacity to improve conservation of the natural and cultural heritage and local communities' standards of living, as well as to encourage respect for nature, indigenous cultures and their diversity;
- to disseminate methods and techniques for ecotourism planning, management, regulation and monitoring to ensure its long-term sustainability.
- to promote exchanges of experience with ecotourism;
- to increase opportunities for efficient marketing and promotion of ecotourism destinations and products;
- to promote minimum quality standards, as well as trustworthy and comparable certification systems for ecotourism suppliers;

Activities to Achieve IYE Objectives
To achieve these objectives, WTO has undertaken a number of activities at different levels since early 2001:

It has recommended that Member States create local and national multi-stakeholder ecotourism committees. These would continue to exist after the IYE, coordinating and monitoring ecotourism activities in each country. Forty-one Member States have responded positively to this recommendation, other countries are initiating national ecotourism fora or local ecotourism development activities within the framework of the IYE.

Regional WTO conferences have been successfully organized to exchange experiences, examine problems, promote cooperation nationally and internationally, and identify future challenges. Regional preparatory meetings have already been held in Mozambique for Africa, in Brazil for the Americas, in Kazakhstan for CIS countries, in Austria for Europe, in Greece for Mediterranean Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, in the Seychelles for island destinations, in Algeria for countries with desert areas. Further meetings are scheduled in the Maldives for the Asia-Pacific region, in Moscow for Russia and neighbouring countries and in Fiji for South Pacific islands. Over 2200 stakeholders, representing public sector tourism and environmental authorities, non-governmental organizations, ecotourism businesses, academic institutions and independent experts, have participated so far in these preparatory meetings, where some 200 case studies have been presented. WTO also organized, jointly with UNEP, a Web-Conference on Sustainable Development of Ecotourism during April 2002, in which nearly 1000 persons from 88 countries participated.

World Ecotourism Summit in Quebec, Canada, May 2002: The conclusions and recommendations of these and other official preparatory conferences were submitted to the Summit, which is expected to be the largest ever gathering of all stakeholders involved in or impacted by ecotourism.

Tourism and Trade Fairs:
- Reisepavillon (Hannover, January 2002): WTO, jointly with the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) convened the Forum International with the participation of public authorities, ecotourism companies and experts. WTO and GTZ subsidised the participation of more than 50 small suppliers of ecotourism from 20 developing countries.
- FITUR (Madrid, February 2002): WTO is organizing a special Session on Ecotourism for Latin America
- International Adventure Travel and Outdoor Sports Exhibition (Chicago, February 2002): WTO is supporting the event and will deliver a presentation at an ecotourism conference.
- ITB International Tourism Fair (Berlin, March 2002): WTO is supporting and participating at "Sustainable Travel Exchange - Travel with Sense" exhibition of ITB

Special WTO publications for the IYE:
- Compilation of Good Practices in the Sustainable Development of Ecotourism: 55 case studies from 39 countries, presented in a systematic form
- Ecotourism Market Study Series: seven pioneer country reports on the main European and North American ecotourism generating markets (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, USA)
- Guidelines for the Sustainable Development and Management of Tourism in National Parks and Protected Areas (revised edition, jointly with UNEP/WTO/IUCN)

A special page has been created on the WTO website for IYE related activities:

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World Tourism Organization
Sustainable Development of Tourism Section
Capitan Haya, 42
28020 Madrid - Spain
Tel: (34) 91 567 8100
Fax: (34) 91 571 3733
Email: env@world-tourism.org

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