UNWTO in search of ‘Best Tourism Villages’
The search is on for the best examples of rural villages harnessing the power of tourism to provide opportunity and safeguard their communities, local traditions and heritage. The initiative of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will identify villages taking innovative and transformative approaches to tourism in rural areas in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
With the vision of making tourism a positive force for transformation, rural development and community wellbeing, ‘Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO’ aims 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 villages along with their associated landscapes, knowledge systems, biological and cultural diversity, local values and activities, including gastronomy.
The launch of the ‘Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO’ initiative takes place on the occasion of the opening of UNWTO’s first Regional Office in the Middle East (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), underscoring the focus of the Office on, among other issues, the role of tourism in rural development.
“Tourism can be a driver of positive change for rural communities all around the world,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “We want to recognise 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.”
At the opening of the UNWTO Regional office in Riyadh, His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Tourism, said: “We are proud to be a partner of UNWTO as they launch this important initiative. 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.”