ICAO and the World Tourism Organization


The UNWTO emblem is a globe with two ribbon signs in form of a curved Z.

Tourism is one of the world's most important industries. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the leading international organization in the field of travel and tourism. It promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide. With its headquarters in Madrid, Spain, UNWTO is an inter-governmental body and specialized agency of the United Nations and is governed by its General Assembly which meets every two years.


With international travel numbers increasing after WWII, the First International Congress of National Tourism Bodies met in London in October 1946 and decided to create a new international non-governmental organization to replace the International Union of Official Tourist Propaganda Organizations ‎‎(IUOTPO), established in 1934. The First Constitutive Assembly of the International Union of Official Travel Organizations (IUOTO) was held in 1947 in The Hague. The IUOTO was made up of a combination of national tourist organizations, industry and consumer groups; its goals and objectives were to not only promote tourism in general but also to extract the best out of tourism as an international trade component and as an economic development strategy for developing nations.


Madrid, Spain - First General Assembly of WTO

During those years, ICAO attended meetings/conferences of IUOTO where matters of interest to ICAO were considered, including facilitation of traffic, statistics and the impact of air fares on tourism development. Moreover, ICAO was represented at numerous sessions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Regional Economic Commissions where measures promoting tourism or related to facilitation of tourist travel were considered. 


The IUOTO held an Extraordinary General Assembly in Mexico City from 17 to 28 September 1970 and voted on 27 September in favor of forming the World Tourism Organization (WTO), based on statutes of the IUOTO. The statutes of the new Organization came into force on 2 January 1975, one hundred and twenty days after ratification by fifty-one prescribed States. The first General Assembly of WTO met in Madrid, Spain from 12 to 24 May 1975, at the invitation of the Spanish Government; from 1 January 1976, the WTO General Secretariat was set up in Madrid.


The work of ICAO and UNWTO contains several items of mutual interest in the fields of statistics, facilitation, air transport studies, fare structures, measures for tourist protection and security, forecasting, etc. Therefore, due to this close relationship between the work programmes, arrangements were made in 1976 and 1977 between the two organizations to co-operate, avoid duplication of effort, exchange and distribute touristic information, and ensure best application of resources. At the seventh ICAO Air Services Negotiation Conference (ICAN2014) held in November 2014 in Bali, Indonesia, the UNWTO highlighted the critical links between the work of ICAO and the UNWTO and the need to foster still greater global connectivity and facilitation supporting the travel and tourism sectors, thus reflecting the close link between air transport and tourism.


Since 1980, the World Tourism Day has been celebrated annually on 27 September. By the resolution A/RES/58/232 of 23 December 2003, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly recognized the World Tourism Organization as a Specialized Agency of the UN responsible for taking such action as may be appropriate under its Statutes for the accomplishment of the objectives set forth therein; the UN also recognized the decisive and central role of the World Tourism Organization, as an intergovernmental organization, in world tourism, as enshrined in its Statutes. As a result, the acronym UNWTO was established to distinguish it from the World Trade Organization.


The International Union of Official Travel Organizations (IUOTO) held its XIVth World Tourist Conference in Manila from 18 to 26 November 1959. On this occasion, Philippines issued on 18 November 1959 a set of stamps depicting the Maria Cristina Falls, a tourist destination, located on the island of Mindanao. The cachet features the logo of the Conference and the Philippines Congress Building (now the National Museum), the site of this Conference.


Cover sent by the International Union of Official Travel Organizations (IUOTO) to Sir William Hildred.

Postmarked on 17 September 1961.

In 1965, Sir William Hildred, United Kingdom, former Director General of Civil Aviation in the UK (1941-1946), and Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA, from 1946 to 1964), was given the 4th Edward Warner Award.


Maldives – 2 October 1985 – 10th Anniversary of WTO.

It is interesting to note that this souvenir sheet still shows the emblem of the IUOTO (which was no longer in existence in 1985), while showing at the same time WTO’s emblem.


Cover with WTO cachet sent to ICAO. Postmarked on 27 May 1992.