PhD Researcher at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, the UNWTO 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. The Sustainable Development of Tourism Programme (SDT) builds its work upon the Plan of Implementation agreed upon at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD, Johannesburg, 2002), in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, the post 2015 Development Agenda and in the framework of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. It covers the areas of policies and tools for SDT, their application to the different types of tourism destinations as well as their integration into global initiatives on sustainable development; and has the following objectives: 

  • To facilitate the integration of sustainability criteria in national, regional and local tourism policies and development plans;
  • To enhance evidence-based decision making through the strengthening of the network of observatories of sustainable tourism, to allow for efficient and relevant reporting and through the collection and analysis of global case studies on resource management in tourism;
  • To participate and contribute to the work related to accelerating the shift towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns;
  • To contribute to position tourism in the framework of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity (2011-2020);
  • To deepen the knowledge of the contribution of tourism to poverty alleviation and promote its application;
  • To provide capacity-building tools for adaptation and mitigation to climate change and influence the international debate regarding mitigation strategies and measures;
  • To advise on the sustainability aspects of all projects, studies and other initiatives by the UNWTO Secretariat;
  • To define a set of UNWTO SDT products for Member States.

In 2015, UNWTO will continue the PhD Research Programme, successfully started in 2014, which will offer again two PhD students the opportunity to contribute to the UNWTO programme for Sustainable Development of Tourism (SDT). The main aim of this programme is to support research to advance the general knowledge and further broaden ones’ understanding about the importance of sustainable and resilient tourism at the international level.

Scope of Research

Organizational setting and reporting

The PhD Research Programme will be located in Madrid, Spain, at UNWTO headquarters, working with the SDT Programme. Successful candidates will be sponsored for a period of 12 months and are expected to work under the supervision of the Director of the SDT programme and/or another staff member in the programme. Appropriate logistics (i.e., first-hand access to meetings and UN processes; internal access to all UNWTO documents and database and other relevant industry data and processes; own office space, computer and internet accessibility) will be made available. Applicants are required to dedicate most of their time to the research at the UNWTO headquarters; however arrangements for field research are envisaged. PhD candidates are expected to prepare three research papers, for publishing or the equivalent, on their designated research subject. Successful candidates will conduct research in one of the following areas:  

  • Global Processes on sustainable development: biodiversity, sustainable consumption and production, sustainable tourism, 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP), post-2015 development agenda, Rio+20, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Resilient tourism: transportation and tourism policies, travel facilitation, post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction (HFA-2) - to foster growth and development. 

Duration of Program

  • The selected candidates will be offered a twelve months sponsorship.

Lump Sum

  • A monthly lump sum of EUR 2,000 per month, to be paid at the end of each month.

Date of Entry on Duty

  • 1 st August or 1 st September 2015

Duty Station

  • Madrid (Spain)

Eligibility &Conditions

  • The researchers should possess the following knowledge and skills: 
  • Applicants must be enrolled in doctoral studies and be external collaborative PhD students, but should not be in their final year of study.
  • The lump sum should be used to finance the one year stay abroad in Madrid and should not be used for tuition or other fees related to the PhD degree.
  • The successful candidate must have excellent written and spoken English.
  • Applicants must be computer literate in Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2010 software, Internet and emerging Web tools, and should be able to operate standard office equipment (e.g. scanner, photocopier, etc.); experience with data management software is an asset; have a keen interest in the work of the United Nations and have the ability to successfully interact with individuals of different cultural backgrounds and beliefs.
  • Applicants must have academic background in international affairs, sustainable development, international and/or development economics, aviation and transportation management, environmental affairs or related fields.
  • The successful PhD candidate shall conduct himself/herself at all times in a manner befitting his/her status as a holder of a UNWTO research grant. Any serious infringement of this general rule may lead, after consultation with the authorities concerned, to the termination of the research.
  • Applicants must possess a medical certificate indicating that he/she is in good health and able to undertake the research programme.
  • The researcher shall be in possession of a major global medical insurance coverage to be paid by him/her.
  • The UNWTO is not in any way committed to employ the researcher upon completion of UNWTO research.
  • The researcher shall be responsible for all matters pertaining to his/her stay in Madrid.

Proposal Evaluation

  • PhD research applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
  • Linkages between original PhD study and UNWTO research subjects
  • Scientific benefit of the PhD research project for UNWTO, conferences and official publications
  • Completeness of application
  • Fulfillment of general conditions


Submission of Applications

  • All applications must include the following documents:
  • Curriculum vitae that includes your contact details
  • 1-2 page motivation letter
  • Linkages between PhD study and UNWTO research
  • Academic transcripts
  • Letter of support from PhD supervisor
  • All applications must be written in English 

Applications will only be accepted if completed and according to application requirements.  Applications should be submitted via email to the following address: 

REFERENCE: PhD Researcher at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)  

Important pointers for applicants:

Applicants are kindly requested:

- To clearly indicate “PhD Researcher at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)” on the motivation letter.

- To avoid sending their application via multiple routes.

- To refrain from contacting the Organization on the status of their application. Applicants who do not receive any feedback within three months of the deadline should consider their application as unsuccessful.

The official web-page.