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Jordan’s Umm Qais and Saudi’s AlUla are among UNWTO’s best tourism villages

The list recognizes rural areas that embrace tourism as a driver of development

Jordan’s Umm Qais and Saudi’s AlUla are among UNWTO’s best tourism villages
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

After placing a national strategy for the tourism sector at the heart of its economy and society, the listing of Umm Qais among the best tourism villages of 2022 by the UN World Tourism Organization is a bonus for Jordan.

In the northwestern region, on the hills above the Jordan Valley, Umm Qais is known for its stunning colonnaded alleys, vaulted terrace, and the remnants of two ancient theaters.

Umm Qais was one of 135 places assessed by UNWTO member states based on many factors, including cultural and natural resources, cultural resource promotion and conservation, and economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

The initiative is part of a UNWTO strategy to promote tourism and rural development by prioritizing connectivity, infrastructure, access to financing and investment, and education and skill development.

“For rural communities everywhere, tourism can be a game-changer in providing jobs, supporting local businesses, and keeping traditions alive,” said Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General.

Festivals, art exhibitions, conferences, and displays of industries and handicrafts will be organized in the town to commemorate the achievement. Jordan’s tourism and antiquities minister, Nayef Fayez, stated that the listing would enhance tourism in the country and provide job prospects in local communities.

Meanwhile, AlUla’s ancient Old Town in Saudi Arabia has also been listed in this year’s top 32 villages. AlUla’s Old Town was formerly a prominent hamlet on the pilgrimage route from Damascus to Makkah. After substantial renovation, the maze-like vestiges of old stone and mud brick structures were reopened last year, allowing visitors to explore the AlUla Castle, dating back to the 10th century.

In 2021, the list included Misfat Al Abriyeen in Oman’s highlands, Lebanon’s pine-surrounded town of Bkassine, and Rijal Almaa in Saudi Arabia, often known as the kingdom’s gingerbread village.

Nominations for the next program will begin in February, coinciding with the inaugural conference of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Network of Best Tourism Villages in Saudi Arabia.

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