· Historic AlUla Old Town was among villages included by UNWTO on its 2022 list of Best Tourism Villages
· Delegates from around the world will share their insights on sustainable, innovative rural tourism
AlUla, the ancient crossroads of civilisations in north-west Arabia that is now emerging as a global destination for cultural and natural heritage, will be the site of the first-ever in-person meeting of representatives of the Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO.
The villages, including AlUla Old Town District were recognised in December as part of UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages (BTV) initiative, “recognises villages that are an outstanding example of a rural tourism destination with accredited cultural and natural assets, that preserve and promote rural and community-based values, products, and lifestyle and have a clear commitment to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects – economic, social, and environmental.”
UNWTO have organised the first iteration of the Best Tourism Villages Award Ceremony and meeting of the BTV Network in AlUla on March 12-13. The event will be a forum for knowledge-sharing on topics such as best practices, community empowerment, and public-private partnerships. It will also review the programme's 2022 activities and 2023 work plan.
Delegates originating from Switzerland to Vietnam will gather at AlUla'sMaraya multi-purpose venue, which holds the Guinness record as the world's largest mirror-clad building, with mirrors covering its 9,740 sqm surface. The UNWTO Secretary-General, ZurabPololikashvili, is expected to attend.
The BTV programme aligns with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, which aims to triple tourism's share of the national economy to 10%. In 2019 Saudi Arabia introduced eVisas for citizens of 49 countries, and this February the Kingdom introduced a 96-hour stopover visa.
For the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) the gathering affirms AlUla's legacy as a cultural crossroads. A place of collaboration and cultural exchange for a millennia, there is a natural synergy between the destination and the UNWTO’s BTV programme. The inclusion of AlUla on the 2022 list is an accolade in support of RCU's careful regeneration, cultural rejuvenation, and curated redevelopment of heritage destinations. RCU is honoured not only by AlUla's inclusion as a BTV but by its selection as host of this inaugural BTV global gathering.
HE Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, said: "The Ministry is proud to partner with UNWTO to host the Best Tourism Villages 2022 Awards Ceremony and jointly convene the first meeting of the BTV Network in the historic destination of AlUla, one of the villages across the globe recognised for its innovative approach to transforming the tourism sector."
Mr. Pololikashvilisaid: "For rural communities everywhere, tourism can be a true gamechanger in providing jobs, supporting local businesses and keeping traditions alive. The Best Tourism Villages by
UNWTO showcase the power of the sector to drive economic diversification and create opportunities for all outside of big cities.”
Eng. Amr AlMadani, CEO of RCU, said: "This gathering of the world’s best tourism villages serves several purposes for RCU: it allows us to share insights with destinations that share our commitment to sustainable regeneration, it showcases Maraya as a leading venue for conferences. It also provides our guests with the opportunity to visit AlUla, including the remarkable site of Hegra, which in 2008 was inscribed as Saudi Arabia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. ”