UNWTO is recognizing villages across the world that are committed to the promotion and preservation of their cultural heritage and sustainable development through tourism
The world tourism regulatory body has launched an initiative to identify villages in rural areas that are harnessing the power of tourism to create opportunities and safeguard their communities, local traditions and cultural heritage.
The decision to search for the ‘Best Tourism Villages’ was taken at a meeting of the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on May 25, said a statement published on the organisations’ website.
The initiative aims to identify villages that are taking innovative and transformative approaches to tourism in rural areas in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It also aims at making tourism a positive force for transformation, rural development and community wellbeing, and to maximise the contribution of the sector to reducing regional inequalities and fighting against rural depopulation.
It also seeks to advance the role of tourism in valuing and safeguarding rural landscapes, knowledge systems, biological and cultural diversity, local values and activities, including gastronomy.
The initiative takes place on the occasion of the opening of UNWTO’s first Regional Office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, underscoring the focus of the office on, among other issues, the role of tourism in rural development.
Celebrating tourism as a driver of rural development and well-being
“Tourism can be a driver of positive change for rural communities all around the world,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “We want to recognize the uniqueness of each village and showcase the best initiatives to make tourism a means for a better future in rural areas. As we restart tourism, we work to ensure that we leave no one – and no village- behind.”
We want to recognize the uniqueness of each village and showcase the best initiatives to make tourism a means for a better future in rural areas
At the opening of the UNWTO Regional office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb said for our rural communities, tourism is an opportunity to share their vibrant culture, amazing food and famous Saudi hospitality while benefitting from the socio-economic opportunities provided by the sector.
The initiative has three pillars:
The UNWTO label will recognize a village that is an outstanding example of a rural tourism destination with recognized cultural and natural assets, that preserves and promotes rural and community-based values, products and lifestyle and has a clear commitment to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects – economic, social and environmental.
The initiative has an ‘Upgrade Programme’ that will benefit a number of villages that do not fully meet the Label criteria. These villages will receive support from UNWTO and its partners in improving elements of the areas identified as gaps in the evaluation process.
A network of similar villages will be set up that will provide a space for exchanging experiences and good practices, learnings, and opportunities. It will include representatives of the villages awarded the ‘Best Tourism Village’ label, the villages participating in the upgrade programme, as well as experts, public and private sector partners engaged in the promotion of tourism for rural development.
The UNWTO members states can present up to three villages to be assessed by the Initiative. Applications will close on 31 July 2021. The selected villages will be announced in October 2021, on the occasion of the 24th session of the UNWTO General Assembly at Marrakesh, Morocco, 12-15 October 2021.