The castle in Morella, one of Spain's two winners last year. / sur

The World Tourism Organisation is looking for the best villages in the world

Two of last year’s successful candidates were in Spain: Lekunberri and Morella. The deadline for applying is 28 June in this second edition of an initiative which aims to contribute to rural development

Pilar Martínez
PILAR MARTÍNEZ Malaga

The most beautiful villages, the best ones to visit, which have stunning landscapes, their own traditions and customs and excellent local food, now have the chance to be officially recognised as the best in the world. The World Tourism Organisation has set a deadline of 28 June for them to register as candidates for its Best Tourism Villages initiative. This is a way of promoting rural tourism in order to safeguard the villages, their surroundings, their natural and cultural diversity and to make their attractions better-known, including their gastronomy.

The villages which are chosen will be announced at the end of the year. This is the second time the Best Tourism Villages competition has taken place. Last year, there were 174 candidates and 44 villages in 30 countries obtained official recognition while a further 20 were selected to participate in the Upgrade programme.

Lekunberri and Morella

Two of last year’s successful candidates were in Spain: Lekunberri and Morella. All those taking part are evaluated by an independent panel of experts, who are looking for villages which preserve and promote their values, products and lifestyle and are clearly committed to innovation and sustainability in all three aspects: economic, social and environmental.

Apart from the Best Tourism Villages category there is another called Upgrade by UNWTO, which includes places which do not yet meet all the criteria but are given guidance on how to improve.

Finally the Best Tourism Villages Network is a space for villages to exchange experiences and good practices. These include representatives of those in the two previous sections, who can benefit from advice from experts who are committed to promoting tourism for rural development.

At the presentation of this year’s edition, the general secretary of the WTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, said that tourism brings immense opportunities to communities all over the world to create new businesses and to promote and protect their culture.

“I look forward to seeing examples of villages who are working to realise their unique potential for tourism by developing sustainability and creating opportunities for all,” he said.