WTO first started as the International Union Official Tourist Publicity Organization founded in 1925 and headquartered in Den Haag, Netherlands. After the World War II, this organization changed its name to the International Union for Official Tourism Organization (IUOTO), and the headquarter was relocated to Geneva, Switzerland. The IUOTO itself was a non-governmental organization that united tourism agencies from various states. However, in 1967 the IUOTO made a recommendation to transform itself into an inter-governmental organization. As a response, the WTO was established in 1974 with headquarter located in Madrid, Spain. Session of the WTO Executive Council in Jordan last June 2002 agreed to induct the WTO as UN specialized agencies. Meanwhile, Indonesia joined as a member of the WTO in 1970.
The main objective of the WTO is to improve and develop tourism as one of the contributors to economic development, international mutual understanding, peace, universal prosperity, Human Rights and freedom for all people without regards to their race, sex, language and religion. To achieve this main objective, the organization aims its attention at tourism development of the member states. The WTO assists them to develop world tourism industry which is believed to be capable of stimulating economic growth and creating new jobs, providing incentive to conserve historical environment and heritage as well as promoting peace and mutual understanding among all states.
Role and Interest of Indonesia
The WTO is currently promoting ecotourism as one of tourist attractions and at the same time, a nature conservation program. A series of activities for the promotion includes seminars, workshops, publications, etc. Considering Indonesia's abundant natural tourism sites, the concept of ecotourism could be a possible cooperation field between Indonesia and the WTO. Furthermore, the WTO also focuses on utilizing cultural sites to endorse tourism. Hence, the WTO has been conducting a series of activities, such as doing research in cultural sites, holding seminar and publication in order to promote these cultural sites as well as assisting local government to utilize them through field research.
Considering that tourism becomes one of the major sources of foreign reserves, cooperation in international and regional forum, such as the WTO and PATA, is extremely salient, especially in the field of training, investment and exchange of experiences. The organization oversees a Business Council whose members are non-governmental tourism agencies, which is unique to the WTO. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs positively welcomed WTO Executive Council's support for Tourism Community to become a member of the WTO Business Council, considering that participation from private sector and society are extremely vital to the success of business as complex as tourism. Moreover, during the 70th Session of Executive Council in Madrid in June 2003, Indonesian representative, Prof. Dr. Emil Salim was inaugurated as a member of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics for the period of 2003-2005.
The focal point of WTO activities worthy of further consideration and follow up by the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Tourism is the ecotourism program. The program goes in line with the idea of sustainable development which dictates that natural tourism objects should be conserved in order to maintain the balance of nature. Furthermore, Indonesia will also be able to establish cooperation of tourism program to complement previous cooperation with the UNESCO on conserving our cultural sites.