The search is on for the best examples of rural villages harnessing the power of tourism to provide opportunity and safeguard their communities, local traditions and heritage. The initiative of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will identify villages taking innovative and transformative approaches to tourism in rural areas in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With the vision of making tourism a positive force for transformation, rural development and community wellbeing, «Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO» aims to maximise the contribution of the sector to reducing regional inequalities and fighting against rural depopulation. It also seeks to advance the role of tourism in valuing and safeguarding rural villages along with their associated landscapes, knowledge systems, biological and cultural diversity, local values and activities, including gastronomy.  Switzerland as an UNWTO Members State can present up to three villages to be assessed by the initiative.

The three pillars of the initiative

The «Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO» Label: The Label will recognize villages that are outstanding examples of a rural tourism destinations with recognized 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.

The «Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO» Upgrade Programme: The Upgrade Programme 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.

The «Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO» Upgrade Network: The Network will provide a space for exchanging experiences and good practices, learnings, and opportunities. It will include representatives of the villages awarded the «Best Tourism Village by UNWTO» Label, the villages participating in the Upgrade Programme, as well as experts, public and private sector partners engaged in the promotion of tourism for rural development.

Requisites for application

In line with the UNWTO definition of Rural Tourism, a village must fulfill the following criteria to be eligible for application

Population*Have a low population density and a maximum of 15.000 inhabitants. 
Territory Be located in a landscape with an important presence of traditional activities such as agriculture, forestry, livestock or fishing.
SocietyShare community values and lifestyle.

*The application of a cluster destination is also possible. Please note that in this case the application should be submitted for one of the villages in the cluster. This village must be politically independent and have a population that does not exceed 15.000 inhabitants.

Application and decision timeline

Invitation to tender2021, June, 25th 
Swiss application deadline2021, July, 14th  
Swiss jury decision2021, Calendar week 35
Info to the villages2021, Calendar week 35
Application deadlines at UNWTO2021, August, 31st  

Swiss jury & decision

UNWTO Members such as Switzerland can submit a maximum of three villages. 

The Swiss jury consisting of representatives from State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Federal Office for the Environement (FOEN) and Switzerland Tourism (ST) is happy to announce that the following three villages have been selected for submission to the official UNWTO tender:

  • Valposchiavo
  • Saas-Fee (Saas Valley)
  • Gruyères

Please note that no correspondence will be entered into regarding the jury’s decision.

Areas of application

All international applications will be evaluated by an independent UNWTO advisory board through a set of indicators covering the following areas:

  1. Cultural and Natural Resources
  2. Promotion and Conservation of Cultural Resources
  3. Economic Sustainability
  4. Social Sustainability
  5. Environmental Sustainability
  6. Tourism Potential & Development and Value Chain Integration
  7. Governance and Prioritization of Tourism
  8. Infrastructure and Connectivity
  9. Health, Safety and Security

To learn more about these indicators, download the Areas of Evaluation.

The application

Please submit your application at the latest by July, 14th, 2021 (23:59)
Here is the link to the Application form

For your preparation: Preview to the whole application form. Please note that just online applications are valid.

Further questions

Should you have any further questions, please contact the Swisstainable office under swisstainable@switzerland.com