Presentation of the ‘Best Tourism Villages’ Award
The Kaunertal was the first Austrian tourism destination to be awarded the UNWTO sustainability label.
As part of a pilot initiative of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 44 selected rural tourism destinations with a strong focus on sustainability were awarded the ‘Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO’ label for the first time worldwide in 2021. More than 170 destinations from 75 countries submitted entries. The Kaunertal in Tirol is the only Austrian candidate among the award winners. Destinations with less than 15,000 inhabitants were evaluated by a jury of experts in the following areas: Cultural and Natural Resources; Economic, Social and Environmental Sustainability; Tourism Potential/Development and Regional Value Chains; Governance; Infrastructure and Accessibility; Health and Safety.
‘I warmly congratulate the Kaunertal and all Kaunertal residents on this international award. The development towards sustainable tourism is the only right and promising path in times of climate crisis,’ congratulates Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, who grew up in the Kaunertal and still has close ties to the valley today.
‘Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in Austrian tourism. Not only for the guests, but above all for the businesses and the regions. The Kaunertal is a prime example of this. I am therefore very proud that the Kaunertal is being brought before the curtain on an international stage. It is a showcase example of cooperation between tourism and regional policy. Especially in these difficult times for tourism, this worldwide recognition is beneficial, important and valuable – after all, it shows how destination development can be implemented in the sense of our Plan T – Master Plan for Tourism. In order for such a long-term, innovative and sustainable tourism development to succeed, many stakeholders have to cooperate, first and foremost the local population. This cohesion also distinguishes the Kaunertal,’ says Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger.
The Kaunertal stands for sustainable tourism: the nature park founded by the local population was expanded this year to include a large protected area. At the same time, the glacier ski area at the head of the valley offers the opportunity for a future in winter tourism. Year-round tourism with corresponding annual jobs and the very high quality of life secure the livelihood for the population.
‘I would like to express my special thanks to the regional tourism association for the initiative and organisation of this process. It is the right way in the right direction and only together can we set an important course for the future of our valley. Our living space is the basis and tourism can only function sustainably in a healthy symbiosis‘, says Josef Raich, mayor of the municipality of Kaunertal.
The municipality of Kaunertal and the tourism association have been working closely with the Kaunergrat Nature Park for years. Together they develop projects in the field of climate change adaptation on the topics of awareness raising, near-natural silviculture, climate-friendly alpine pastures, rainwater utilisation, climate workshops in schools as well as practicable approaches for guests in the form of the first climate hiking guide. As a major milestone, the entire population has now also been involved by means of workshops entitled ‘Future. Habitat’ workshops. The focus on sustainable developments and a future worth living in is now supported by all stakeholders.
‘The conscious orientation as a sustainable region, which deals above all with climate change and possible adaptation strategies, has been our theme in the orientation of tourism in the Kaunertal region for many years. So it is all the nicer to now hold the confirmation in our hands! I would like to thank all those who have gone along with us on this path,’ says a delighted Michaela Gasser-Mark, Managing Director of the Kaunertal Tourism Association.