A travel report with Ayele Addis Ambelu: ayeleradio@gmail.com #Review

UN World Tourism Organization’s list of 32 best places worldwide for small community tourism includes Ethiopia, China, Morocco, and Ecuador villages.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) has named Ethiopia’s Choke Mountains Ecovillage among the Best Tourism Villages 2022.

The Choke Mountains ecovillage is found in the West Gojjam Zone of the Amhara region.

The WTO, a specialized UN agency, described the ecovillage as driving rural development by protecting cultural and natural resources, traditions and community-based values, tourism products, and lifestyles.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently revealed its annual list of the best tourism villages across the globe, with those included in the list scoring highly on social and environmental sustainability and their tourism work.

The agency annually recognizes the best villages that are outstanding examples of rural tourism destinations.

The Choke Mountains Ecovillage made it to the lest Tourism Villages 2022 after aan independent advisory board evaluated itn nine criteria , ,including tourism development and value chain Integration.

‘An ecotourism ideology’

The village is located in Ethiopia’s third highest , ,Mt Choke – 300 km northwest of Addis Ababa.

The UN sparticularagency says,

“This ecotourism village has developed sustainable land management, ipromotessolar energy, biogas , and waste management.

The local farming community in this village lives in harmony by adopting the ideology of Mulu ecovillage , ,which promotes fair trade tourism, sustainable tourism development, sustainable culture, and nature conservation.

Additionally, the village aims to establish aa solid community-basedtourism approach by coordinating and hosting regular community events.

The village people have the knowledge and equipment to produce various natural goods, including honey, beer, medicinal herbs, vegetables, coffee, etc., for the locals, tourism providers, and visitors.”

Manuel Butler, director of the Spanish Tourist Office in London, said: We are delighted that the UNWTO has placed Ethiopia as the country with the most appearances on its list. We aim to promote community-led tourism across Ethiopia and are thrilled at the international recognition.”

Alquezar, in Huesca province, also made a list. Photograph: Alamy

The accolade recognizes rural destinations embracing tourism as a driver of development and new opportunities for jobs and income while preserving and promoting community values.

The 32 award-winning villages are in 18 South American Asia, African, and Europe countries. An independent advisory board evaluated them on cultural, natural resources, and economic, social, or environmental sustainability criteria.

For the 2022 awards, a total of 136 villages were put forward for consideration by 57 UNWTO member states (each could nominate up to three towns).

“For rural communities everywhere, tourism can be a game-changer in providing jobs, supporting local businesses, and keeping traditions alive,” said UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili. “The UNWTO Best Tourism Villages list showcases the power of the sector to drive economic diversification and create opportunities for all outside big cities.”

The awards ceremony occurs in Al’Ula, Saudi Arabia, on March 12, 2023.

UNWTO’s best tourism villages 2022

  • Zell am See, Austria
  • Wagrain, Austria
  • Puqueldón, Chile
  • Dazhai, China
  • Jingzhu, China
  • Choachí, Colombia
  • Aguarico, Ecuador
  • Angochagua, Ecuador
  • Mulu Ecovillage, Ethiopia
  • Mestia, Georgia
  • Kfar Kama, Israel
  • Sauris-Zahre, Italy
  • Isola del Giglio, Italy
  • Umm Qais, Jordan
  • Creel, Mexico
  • El Fuerte, Mexico
  • Ksar Elkhorbat, Morocco
  • Moulay Bouzerktoune, Morocco
  • Lamas, Peru
  • Raqchi, Peru
  • Castelo Novo, Portugal
  • Pyeongsa-ri, South Korea
  • Rasinari, Romania
  • Al’Ula Old Town, Saudi Arabia
  • Bohinj, Slovenia
  • Rupit, Spain
  • Alquézar, Spain
  • Guadalupe, Spain
  • Murten, Switzerland
  • Andermatt, Switzerland
  • Birgi, Türkiye
  • Thái Hải, Vietnam

In the Choke Mountains people are deeply spiritual Christians. A few years ago, it was a sin to sell food here – if anybody needed it, to give it for free!
Now, foods are sold on the weekly markets, but the closest restaurant or cafe is in Feres Bet ( about 17 km away). There are public transport services a few times a day to Feres Bet, which take about 45 min.
Therefore we offer full board accommodation. You may also get the chance to be invited to a farmer’s house.
The Mulu Eco Lodge supports the surrounding farmers by buying food directly from them. It follows their rhythm of eating meat only on special yearly holidays when the farmers slaughter an animal.
Most of the time, the diet is very diverse vegetarian meals – on request international but usually traditional Ethiopian style.
The locals love cooking with you in our open community kitchen, with both sides learning about different cuisine.

Breakfast with hot drinks is included in the accommodation fee (except if you stay in a tent). The additional Full Board Fee includes lunch, coffee ceremony, and dinner. Fresh filtered spring water is always available. Alcoholic beverages and other drinks can be bought additionally in the Lodge.

Valerie volunteered in Ethiopia for a gap year after high school graduation. “I fell in love with the country and its people, and now I live in the Choke Mountains in Ethiopia while doing a distance study of energy engineering in Germany, my origin. In Ethiopia, I got to know my partner, Abiy, an Ethiopian who grew up as a farmer’s son in the mountains of our current project area. As a child, he moved to the capital, later studied Ecotourism, and always dreamed about returning to his roots and helping the people there. We moved to the mountains to start the project in July 2017 and opened the Mulu Eco Lodge in 2018. We brought the idea to the community, but the main pillar of the project is the farmers themselves! About 200 farmers and their families are involved and benefiting from the Mulu Eco Lodge.”

‘Community-based tourism’

The World Tourism Organisation also appreciates the community-based tourism practices in the village and says,

“The village encourages the local inhabitants to take an active part in adopting a sustainable lifestyle.

It has promoted the ideology of Mulu Ecovillage by using local materials to transform the common land into multiple tourism sites.

The local inhabitants have shown a keen interest in hosting regular community events.

They act as tour guides and operate lodges while cultivating and producing various goods derived from animal and plant sources, including honey, beer, medical herbs, vegetables, and coffee.”

“A true game changer”

This year, 32 villages from 18 countries across the five world regions were awarded the ‘Best Tourism Villages’ recognition from 136 villages put forward for consideration.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said the recognition shows tourism’s role in mining boosting economic activities for villages outside big cities.

“For rural communities everywhere, tourism can be a true game changer in providing jobs, supporting local businesses, and keeping traditions alive,” he said.

“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.”