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Australia's Withdrawal From The UN's World Tourism Organisation


In August 2015, Australia completed the domestic treaty process to withdraw Australia as a Full Member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Australia has been a member of the UNWTO since 2004. The UNWTO currently has 156 countries in its agency which promotes the world’s $7 trillion travel industry and provides members with access to important world tourism data. The tourism industry is one of Australia’s five super growth industries, contributing $91 billion ($42 billion directly, $48 billion indirectly) to Australia’s GDP in 2012-13.

The withdrawal has followed a comprehensive review by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) of the Australian Parliament in consultation with key industry stakeholders. The JSCOT reviewed the National Interest Analysis at a hearing on 11 May 2015, and their report supported the withdrawal of Australia from the World Tourism Organization Statutes. Subsequently, the Federal Executive Council approved the treaty action on 6 August 2015.

“The government determined that the UNWTO work program does not align with our national tourism program (Tourism 2020) and that benefits from membership do not outweigh the membership costs ($1.7 million over the forward estimates),” a statement from Federal Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb's office read.

The withdrawal has been concerning to some parties as involvement with the UNWTO provides Australia with greater international exposure and involvement in policy development, as well as involvement in valuable industry research and world tourism data. Some also argue that membership of the UNWTO is essential if the industry is to maintain a cutting edge in an increasingly competitive field, especially given Australia's physical remoteness to growing markets and trends.

However, the withdrawal brings Australia in line with the UK, USA, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Ireland and Belgium, who have either not joined or have also withdrawn membership of the UNWTO.

On 19 August 2015, the Australian Government lodged the official Instrument of Withdrawal with the Spanish Foreign Ministry, as the Depositary Government for the Statutes of the UNWTO.

From this date, Australia will serve a 12-month withdrawal notification period, as required under the Statutes. Australia will remain a fee-paying member of the UNWTO until 19 August 2016, when the membership will officially cease.

Australia’s non-membership does not prevent tourism bodies or education institutions from participating in UNWTO activities or programmes of interest as Affiliate UNWTO members.

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