Dahshur in Giza Governorate and Siwa in Matrouh Governorate received the coveted title of UNWTO Best Tourism Villages for the year 2023 today during the 25th Annual General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
This honor not only recognizes their timeless beauty, but also their dedication to sustainable tourism practices and their contribution to Egypt’s rich cultural heritage.
During the 25th General Assembly meeting, the UNWTO revealed its list of Best Tourism Villages 2023. The award recognizes villages that are at the forefront of nurturing rural areas and preserving landscapes, cultural variety, local values, and culinary traditions around the world.
In this third edition, 54 villages from around the world were chosen from nearly 260 applications, and an additional 20 villages have joined the Upgrade Programme. The UNWTO Best Tourism settlements Network now includes all 74 settlements.
“Tourism can be a powerful force for inclusivity, empowering local communities and distributing benefits across regions,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili emphasizes. “This initiative acknowledges villages that have harnessed tourism as a catalyst for their development and well-being,” he went on to say.
The UNWTO introduced the Best Tourism Villages Initiative in 2021 as part of the UNWTO Tourism for Rural Development Programme. This Program promotes rural development and inclusion, combats depopulation, advances innovation and value chain integration through tourism, and promotes sustainable practices.
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; Health, Safety, and Security are the nine key areas in which the villages are evaluated.
The initiative is divided into three components, according to the UNWTO website. The first is the UNWTO Best Tourism Villages award, which acknowledges outstanding rural tourism locations with certified cultural and natural assets, a dedication to conserving community-based values, and a commitment to innovation and sustainability across economic, social, and environmental aspects.
The second pillar is the UNWTO Best Tourism Villages Upgrade Programme, which assists villages in meeting recognition criteria by filling deficiencies discovered during review.
The third is the Best Tourism Villages Network, which provides a forum for its members to share their experiences, best practices, learning, and opportunities. It welcomes contributions from experts as well as public and private sector partners who advocate for tourism as a driver of rural development.
“This prestigious award is expected to elevate the international profiles of both villages, drawing more travellers seeking authentic cultural experiences and responsible travel practices,” said Ghada Shalaby, Vice Minister of Tourism and Antiquities.
Egypt now has two villages on the program’s upgradee list, according to Shalaby: Fuwa in the Nile Delta, which will be listed in 2021, and Saint Catherine in South Sinai, which will be listed in 2023.
Adel El-Guindy, Director General of Strategy at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the recipient of the prizes, stated that the ministry’s efforts to develop Dahshur as a rural tourist destination began in 2013 in collaboration with the UNWTO.
They worked together to restore Dahshur’s tourism infrastructure and to conduct a training program for 3,400 members of the local community.
The program included several workshops on various topics, such as the importance of tourism to the national economy; simplified English language for Dahshur locals to help them deal with visitors; solid waste management, tourism activities, and visitor services; micro, small, and medium tourism projects; and the local rural tourism extension program.
According to El-Guindy, the Ministry’s work team has also aided the International Labour Organization (ILO) in establishing five local NCOs specialized in tourism and a forum for local economic development to engage with governmental authorities.