The quaint municipalities of Zapatoca in Santander and Filandia in Quindío have been catapulted onto the world stage. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) has awarded them the prestigious title of Best Tourism Villages 2023. This accolade is not just a testament to their picturesque landscapes and rich cultural tapestry but also to their innovative strides in sustainable tourism that have captured the hearts of travelers and the attention of global tourism arbiters.
Global Recognition for Colombian Rural Charm
During the 25th General Assembly of the WTO held in Uzbekistan, these idyllic Colombian towns were given the accolade of Best Tourism Villages 2023. This annual competition aims to highlight rural villages across the globe that exemplify outstanding rural tourism destinations.
Arturo Bravo, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, expressed pride that these two Colombian towns, nominated for the competition with the support of the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, were identified as exemplary rural tourism destinations on an international level. He emphasized that this initiative helps to solidify tourism as a tool for rural development and well-being, through the appreciation and safeguarding of rural villages.
Zapatoca, Filandia Leaders Celebrate International Acclaim for Colombia
The mayors of both municipalities expressed their satisfaction with the award. Jaime Franco Alzate, the mayor of Filandia, highlighted the recognition of their landscape, biodiversity, and the entrepreneurial spirit of their farmers in strengthening the agricultural sector, not only with traditional activities but also with their tourism potential. Hernán Agredo Acevedo, the mayor of Zapatoca, shared his contentment, stating that the cultural and tourist representation is the best reflection of their efforts over the years to present Zapatoca as one of the most important municipalities for rural and cultural tourism in Colombia.
Zapatoca and Filandia: A Blend of Natural Beauty and Cultural Wealth
The WTO praised Zapatoca and Filandia for their cultural and natural richness and their commitment to social, economic, and environmental sustainability. The competition saw participation from 260 municipalities from over 60 countries.
The nomination process began with a call from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism in May, inviting municipal entities to present their rural tourism destinations. Out of 38 applications received, a technical committee from the Deputy Ministry of Tourism selected and supported eight nominated towns.
For the competition, the municipalities had to demonstrate their values and actions towards rural tourism. Zapatoca was noted for its hiking experiences in natural and archaeological attractions, such as the Nitro cave and the Lengerke Trail, as well as its Pauche crafts and other Colombian manual art icons. Tourism has significantly mobilized the local economy and fostered an environmental protection culture.
Filandia showcased its strategic location, architecture, handicrafts, specialty coffees, beautiful landscapes, the warmth of its inhabitants, and a broad offering of cultural and natural attractions as the pillars of its identity and community belonging.
The winners of the Best Tourism Villages 2023 will have the opportunity to participate in an exchange of experiences, best practices and learning opportunities with over 100 member destinations worldwide, and receive contributions from experts and partners in the public and private sectors committed to promoting tourism as a pathway for rural development.
Additionally, the WTO highlighted the high potential of Iza, a municipality in Boyacá, to become a leading rural destination. Iza was granted entry into the Upgrade program, which includes villages that, although not scoring high enough to be recognized as Best Tourism Villages, will receive technical assistance, training, and support to improve their rural tourism and sustainability practices.