The National Geographic Society introduces its first Geotourism Challenge collaborative competition to identify and showcase innovators in tourism development, management and marketing. The one-of-a-kind online competition, at www.changemakers.net/geotourismchallenge, will raise awareness about how tourism can help sustain, enhance and preserve local culture and environment. Three winners will each receive a cash prize of $5,000 and an opportunity to present their innovations at a Geotourism Challenge Summit this fall.
Coordinated in partnership with Ashoka’s Changemakers, the global “Geotourism Challenge: Celebrating Places/Changing Lives,” will accept online applications through Wednesday, April 9, 2008. Applicants must demonstrate an innovation that furthers geotourism, defined as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.” During this 10-week period anyone can debate, endorse or provide additional information on the applicants. Travelers can nominate additional candidates and provide feedback about unique travel experiences and quality destinations. A distinguished panel of judges will review the applications and select a dozen finalists. The online community will then vote for three Geotourism Challenge winners.
The Geotourism Challenge is Changemakers’ 15th collaborative competition and draws on Ashoka’s 27 years of experience in identifying leading social entrepreneurs around the world. To date, the competitions have sourced over 2,000 local innovations on various themes from more than 125 countries.
“Tourism can be a positive force to help alleviate poverty, educate the public, and motivate preservation and conservation of cultural, natural and historic resources. When done poorly, tourism fails to provide local benefits and may destroy the distinctive assets of a destination. This Geotourism Challenge invites transparent discussion about ways to manage tourism better,” said Jonathan B. Tourtellot, director of National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD). “The Challenge will recognize effective innovations that can be replicated elsewhere. It’s a catalyst to seek ways to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy and experience great destinations.”
Anyone who completes the online nomination form is automatically registered for a chance to win two trips for two, including airfares, accommodations and spending money, anywhere in the world where WHL Travel operates. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Ashoka’s Changemakers and National Geographic in this initiative,” said Len Cordiner, president of World Hotel Link and its travel entity, whl.travel. “The Global Geotourism Challenge represents a whole new way of thinking about how to harness the power of entrepreneurs and travelers to drive change in destination stewardship.”
The Geotourism Challenge will be held annually for the next three years. It will build a global online community of geotourism activists and geo-savvy travelers. Throughout the year information and resources will be posted on the Web site to help conservationists, preservationists, developers, marketers, civic groups, government agencies, businesses and individuals learn how to apply holistic geotourism principles locally.
The Geotourism Challenge is one of the key programs of the CSD. The Ashoka-CSD partnership was recognized as part of National Geographic’s Geotourism Commitment, presented at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2007.
“Ashoka’s vision, really, is to build an ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ world — a world in which more people give themselves the permission to make a difference. This is why Ashoka created Changemakers.net collaborative competitions — to utilize online social networking opportunities to leverage and speed the spread of the insights and impact of social innovators,” said Bill Drayton, Ashoka’s founder and CEO. “National Geographic is a key collaborator, whose commitment will ensure geotourism innovators, decision-makers and enthusiasts from around the world can gather together to inspire a global community to care and to act.”