Wrapping up the week-long meeting of the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly taking place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, the organisation has revealed the 54 villages around the world selected as the best tourism villages of 2023.
In this third edition 54 villages from all regions were selected from almost 260 applications. A further 20 villages have joined the Upgrade Programme, and all 74 villages are now part of the UNWTO Best Tourism Villages Network. The accolade recognises rural destinations that are embracing tourism as a driver of development and new opportunities for jobs and income, while preserving and promoting community-based values and products. landscapes, cultural diversity and culinary traditions.
Tourism can be a powerful force for inclusivity, empowering local communities and distributing benefits across regions.Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary General
1. Best Tourism Villages
Launched in 2021, the Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO initiative is part of the UNWTO Tourism for Rural Development Programme. The Programme works to foster development and inclusion in rural areas, combat depopulation, advance innovation and value chain integration through tourism and encourage sustainable practices.
As in previous editions, the villages are evaluated under nine key areas: Cultural and Natural Resources; Promotion and Conservation of Cultural Resources; Economic Sustainability; Social Sustainability; Environmental Sustainability; Tourism Development and Value Chain Integration; Governance and Prioritization of Tourism; Infrastructure and Connectivity; and Health, Safety and Security.
Besides awarding the best tourism villages each year, which recognises outstanding rural tourism destinations with accredited cultural and natural assets, a commitment to preserving community-based values and a clear commitment to innovation and sustainability across economic, social and environmental dimensions, the best tourism villages initiative also comprises the Upgrade Programme and Villages Network.
This initiative acknowledges villages that have harnessed tourism as a catalyst for their development and well-being.Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary General
Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO Upgrade Programme supports villages on their journey to meet recognition criteria, helping in areas identified as gaps during evaluation, while the Villages Network creates a space for exchanging experiences and good practices, learning and opportunities among its members, and it is open to contributions of experts and public and private sector partners engaged in the promotion of tourism as a driver for rural development. The Network enlarges every year and aims to become the largest global rural network. With this year’s 74 new members, 190 villages are now part of the Villages Network.
2. 2023 awards
The 54 Best Tourism Villages selected by UNWTO in 2023, in alphabetical order, are the following:
Additionally, the 20 villages selected to participate in the Upgrade Programme this year are:
3. UNWTO General Assembly
The UNWTO General Assembly is held every two years and gathers the top representatives of the Organization’s Member States, as well as world tourism leaders from the public and private sectors, local authorities, academia and media. The aim of the event is to discuss the issues of international cooperation in the field of tourism, which will be debated at panel sessions as well as a number of other large-scale conferences organised within the framework of the General Assembly.
The 25th session of the UNTWO General Assembly in Samarkand provided us with an opportunity to come together as a global community and discuss the future of tourism.Aziz Abdukhakimov, Minister of Tourism and Cultural Heritage of Uzbekistan
This year, the 25th session took place in Samarkand, marking the first time a city in Uzbekistan was chosen to host the General Assembly. Being a key connecting city on the Silk Road and considered one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, Samarkand is a cradle for trade, culture and science. The city with its ancient buildings is sometimes being referred to as an open-air museum. Splendid portals, vast coloured domes and remarkable exterior decorations in majolica, mosaic, marble and gold, form part of its architectural heritage, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001.
Along with awarding the Best Tourism Villages, global forums on education and tourism investment were also organised within the framework of the week-long event, during which global tourism leaders have further advanced plans for a more ethical, diverse sector led by a growing UNWTO.
The organisation committed to moving closer to its Members and being on the ground in every region as the Assembly was given an update on work to establish new Regional and Thematic offices. Moreover, the General Assembly further built on UNWTO’s leading work to create a more ethical and accessible sector, while also increasing confidence in travel and tourism. The Global Code of Ethics were the foundation for UNWTO becoming a UN agency. In Samarkand, the Assembly approved new members to serve on the World Committee of Tourism Ethics, with a clear commitment to diversity.
To conclude, Members agreed that the 26th session of the UNWTO General Assembly will be held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.