The is a specialised agency of the United Nations. It has its headquarters in Madrid. UNWTO's membership includes 155 countries, 7 Associate Members, two permanent observers and over 400 Affiliate Members. The Secretariat is led by the Secretary General; it is responsible for implementing UNWTO's programme of work. Germany has been a full member of UNWTO since 1976. Being an elected member of the UNWTO Executive Council (until 2017), Germany actively contributes to the work of UNWTO. The Executive Council is responsible for ensuring that the Organization carries out its work and adheres to its budget.
The key issues of the programmes include sustainability, education and training, tourism trends and marketing, statistics, destination management, ethics in tourism, crisis management and technical cooperation.
The task of the World Tourism Organization is to "promote and develop the tourism industry as a contributor to economic development, international understanding, peace, prosperity, respect for freedom and human rights for everyone without distinction as to race, gender, language and religion". UNWTO pays particular attention to the interests of developing countries. Therefore it is committed to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) geared towards reducing poverty.
UNWTO encourages the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism to maximise tourism's socio-economic contribution while minimising its possible negative impacts.