The search for the best examples of rural villages harnessing the power of tourism to provide opportunities and protect their communities, local tradition and heritage is still ongoing. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) initiative identifies villages that use innovative and transformative approaches to tourism in rural areas in line with sustainable development goals.
With a vision to make tourism a positive force for transformation, rural development and community well-being, UNWTO’s “Best Tourist Villages” seeks to increase the sector’s contribution to reducing regional inequalities and combating depopulation of rural areas.
It also seeks to enhance the role of tourism in valuing and protecting rural villages, along with landscapes, knowledge systems, biological and cultural diversity, local values and activities, including gastronomy.
The initiative includes three pillars:
- UNWTO “Best Tourist Villages”: the 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 lifestyles and has a clear commitment to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects – economic, social and environmental.
- UNWTO “Best Tourist Villages” Upgrade Program: The upgrade program will benefit a number of villages that do not fully meet the label criteria. These villages will receive support from the UNWTO and its partners in improving elements of the areas identified as gaps in the evaluation process.
- UNWTO Best Tourist Villages Network: The network will provide space for the exchange of experiences and good practices, learning and opportunities. It will include representatives of villages awarded the “Best Tourist Village according to the UNWTO” label, villages participating in the Upgrade Program, as well as experts, public and private sector partners involved in the promotion of tourism for rural development.
UNWTO member countries can present up to three villages to be evaluated by the Initiative. Applications will be made close September 15, 2021 Selected villages will be announced in October on the occasion of the 24th session of the UNWTO General Assembly.