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ALULA, Saudi Arabia, March 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — AlUla, the ancient crossroads of civilizations in northwestern Arabia that is now emerging as a global destination for cultural and natural heritage, will be the site of the first meeting in person of representatives of the Best Tourist Towns of the UNWTO.

The villages, including the AlUla Old Town district, were recognized in December as part of UNWTO’s Best Tourist Villages (BTV) initiative, which “recognizes villages that are an outstanding example of a rural tourism destination with cultural assets.” and naturalists, who preserve and promote rural areas and community-based values, products and lifestyles and have a clear commitment to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects: economic, social and environmental.”

UNWTO has organized the first iteration of the Best Tourist Towns Award Ceremony and the BTV Network meeting in AlUla on 12 and 13 March. The event will be a forum to share knowledge on topics such as best practices, community empowerment, and public-private partnerships. It will also review the program activities for 2022 and the work plan for 2023.

Delegates from Switzerland to Vietnam will meet at AlUla’s Maraya multi-purpose venue, which holds the Guinness record for the world’s largest mirror-clad building, with mirrors covering its 9,740-square-meter floor space. UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili is expected to attend.

The BTV program aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which aims to triple the share of tourism in the national economy to 10%. In 2019, Saudi Arabia introduced e-visas for citizens of 49 countries, and in February, the kingdom introduced a 96-hour layover visa.

For the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), the meeting affirms AlUla’s legacy as a cultural crossroads. A place of collaboration and cultural exchange for millennia, there is a natural synergy between the destination and UNWTO’s BTV programme. AlUla’s inclusion on the 2022 list is a commendation in support of RCU’s careful regeneration, cultural rejuvenation and curated redevelopment of heritage destinations. RCU is honored not only by AlUla’s inclusion as a BTV, but also by its selection to host this inaugural BTV global gathering.

HE Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism at the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, explained: “The Ministry is proud to partner with UNWTO to host the Best Tourist Towns 2022 Awards Ceremony and jointly convene the first meeting of the BTV Network in the historic destination of AlUla, one of the towns in the world renowned for its innovative approach to transforming the tourism sector.”

Pololikashvili, Secretary General of UNWTO, said: “For rural communities around the world, tourism can be a real game changer by providing jobs, supporting local businesses and keeping traditions alive. The Best Resort Towns of the UNWTO show the power of the sector to promote economic diversification and create opportunities for all outside the big cities”.

Ing. Amr AlMadani, CEO of RCU, commented: “This gathering of the world’s best resort towns has several purposes for RCU: it allows us to share knowledge with destinations that share our commitment to sustainable regeneration, it shows Maraya as a leading place 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 the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia.”

The full list of the Best Tourism Villages 2022 can be found here: www.unwto.org/news/best-tourism-villages-of-2022-named-by-unwto

Tune in to the event via the official live stream here: https://youtube.com/live/32ecVh7kzkE

Notes for editors:

It’s AlUla / never Al-Ula

About the Royal Commission for AlUla

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) was established by royal decree in July 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of great natural and cultural importance in northwest Saudi Arabia. RCU’s long-term plan outlines a responsible, sustainable and sensible approach to urban and economic development that preserves the area’s natural and historical heritage while establishing AlUla as a desirable place to live, work and visit. This encompasses a wide range of initiatives in archaeology, tourism, culture, education and the arts, reflecting the commitment to deliver on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 priorities of economic diversification, local community empowerment and heritage preservation. .

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