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.
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.
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:
Detailed information can be obtained on the above activities and documents
in the WTO website:
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:
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.
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:
Special WTO publications for the IYE:
A special page has been created on the WTO website for IYE related
World Tourism Organization