Urban Tourism

According to UNWTO, Urban Tourism is "a type of tourism activity which takes place in an urban space with its inherent attributes characterized by non-agricultural based economy such as administration, manufacturing, trade and services and by being nodal points of transport. Urban/city destinations offer a broad and heterogeneous range of cultural, architectural, technological, social and natural experiences and products for leisure and business".

According to the United Nations, in 2015, 54% of the world’s population lived in urban areas and, by 2030, this share is expected to reach 60%. Along with other key pillars, tourism constitutes a central component in the economy, social life and the geography of many cities in the world and is thus a key element in urban development policies.

Urban tourism can represent a driving force in the development of many cities and countries contributing to the progress of the New Urban Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Tourism is intrinsically linked to how a city develops itself and provides more and better living conditions to its residents and visitors.

Fulfilling tourism’s potential as a tool of sustainable and inclusive growth for cities requires a multi-stakeholder and multilevel approach based on close cooperation among tourism and non-tourism administrations at different levels, private sector, local communities and tourists themselves. Likewise, the sustainable development and management of tourism in cities needs to be integrated into the wider urban agenda.


UNWTO Global Summits on Urban Tourism: 


UNWTO-WTCF City Tourism Performance Research:  UNWTO and the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) jointly launched the ‘UNWTO-WTCF City Tourism Performance Research’, an analysis of good practices of urban tourism in the areas of:

  • Destination Management
  • Economic Impact
  • Social and Cultural Impact
  • Environmental Impact
  • Technology & New Business Models


In the framework of the UNWTO-WTCF City Tourism Performance Research, two Technical Workshops were organized to present to results of the applied methodology:

  • Tianjin Workshop, 2 September 2017
  • Buenos Aires Workshop, 26 September 2017

Recommendations and good practices

  • UNWTO Policy Recommendations on managing urban tourism growth (forthcoming)
  • UNWTO Benchmarking of New Platform Tourism Services in the accommodation industry (forthcoming)

Product Development Project

The Precious Time project was created to develop a tourism product targeting the premium segment in cities and serve as a model for tourism product development in urban destinations. The project gathered public and private sector partners from diverse areas such as technology, hospitality, arts and culture, handicrafts, retail shoppers, design and insurance, working together under a guiding theme to create new and innovative products, targeted at an urbanite tourist. 

The pilot project was conducted in the city of Madrid in 2014 in collaboration with the Madrid City Council and with the support of Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism of Spain. Read more