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United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

International relations

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), based in Madrid, is a specialised agency of the United Nations. It is the main international tourism organis​ation and a global forum for discussions on tourism policy issues. Portugal has been a Full Member of the UNWTO since 1976 and is represented by Turismo de Portugal. 

Its political agenda includes topics such as competitiveness, sustainability, poverty reduction, training, cooperation and guidance for responsible and sustainable tourism. The UNWTO also promotes the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UNWTO currently has 159 member countries, 6 associate members and more than 500 affiliate members; the affiliate members represent sector associations, education and training institutions, and companies. The current Secretary-General of the UNWTO is Zurab Pololikashvili (Georgia), who took up the position on January 2018, having been re-elected in 2021 at the 24th General Assembly.

Main Bodies of the UNWTO:

The General Assembly is the main gathering of the World Tourism Organization. It meets every two years to approve the budget, the work programme and discuss issues of vital importance to the tourism sector. Every four years it elects a Secretary-General. It is composed of full members and associate members. Affiliate members and representatives of other International Organisations participate only as observers. The Ethics Committee is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly.

Portugal has actively participated in the General Assembly sessions of the World Tourism Organization, both through the presence of the Secretary of State for Tourism, Trade and Services and Turismo de Portugal. The last General Assembly (23rd) was held in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in September 2019. The next General Assembly will take place in November-December 2021 in Madrid, Spain.

The Executive Council is responsible for ensuring that the Organization carries out its work and complies with the budget. The Executive Council is responsible for taking the necessary measures, in consultation with the Secretary-General, to implement its own decisions and the recommendations of the General Assembly. It meets at least twice a year and is composed of members elected by the General Assembly (1 member for every 5 full members from each region). As the host country of the ​UN​WTO headquarters, Spain has a permanent seat on the Executive Council. Representatives of Associate Members and Affiliate Members participate in Executive Council meetings as observers.​
​​In 2019, Portugal was elected to the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organiz​​ation, ending its mandate in October 2023.

There are six Regional Commissions (Africa, Americas, East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, Europe and the Middle East) which meet at least once a year. These meetings allow Member States to maintain contact with each other and with the Secretariat between sessions of the General Assembly, at which they present their proposals and voice their concerns. Each Regio​nal Commission is composed of all full members and all associate members of its region. Portugal is part of the Regional Commission for Europe which currently has 42 Member States + 2 affiliate members (Flanders and Madeira).

The specialised committees are subsidiary bodies of the Executive Council, (with the exception of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, which is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly) and issues opinions on the management and content of the programme. 

Recently, at the 68th Meeting of the Commission for Europe (in Sofia, Bulgaria), Portugal was elected a member of the Statistics Committee (together with Austria) and of the Sustainability Committee (together with Croatia) for the four-year period 2023-2027. ​​​

  • Cooperation
  • Institutional affairs
  • Turismo de Portugal
  • UN Tourism
  • Global Code of Ethics for Tourism
  • Portugal
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