We're extremely proud to announce the winners of the first-ever Geotourism Challenge! National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destinations and Ashoka's Changemakers sought out the most innovative, authentic, and successful tourism initiatives from around the world for the contest and received over 320 entries from 83 countries. After a panel of experts winnowed down the field to 15, the public voted and three excellent groups will each receive $5,000 dollars to support their efforts. The three winners are:
- 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking (Nepal) uses the positive aspects of tourism to create equity for local women and bring revenue to the poorest areas of Nepal. Women train to become adventure professionals and acquire the skills to earn money, interact with the world and discover their own strengths, critical in a culture where women have been consistently marginalized.
- Rainforest Restoration and Sustainable Community Development (Costa Rica) Rios Tropicales Lodge protects the Costa Rican rain forest by empowering and engaging local communities of native Cabecar Indians, hiring them to manage its eco-lodge and sustainable farming projects. Rios Tropicales helps their best guides turn into "ecopreneurs" and start their own businesses.
- Yachana: Geotourism Lodge and School, Yachana Foundation (Ecuador) is providing practical, hands-on education for Ecuadoran youth in the Amazon. As the country's only school offering a degree in ecotourism and sustainable development, it is deeply involved in cultural programs, the newest being the Amazon Culinary Tour, where guests and students harvest and prepare Amazonian foods together.
"These three winners, as well as the other 12 finalists, are blazing pathways for the mainstream tourism industry to follow," said Jonathan Tourtellot, director of the Center for Sustainable Destinations, and the Geotourism Editor here at Traveler. "The future of tourism depends on protecting the quality of the world's destinations by fully engaging the people who live in them." All fifteen finalists will attend a geotourism summit here at National Geographic in the fall.
If you're interested in learning more about Ashoka's Changemakers, you can read Traveler Editor in Chief Keith Bellows' interview with Bill Drayton, founder of the organization, in our July/August issue. Thanks to all those of you who voted, and we urge everyone to continue to support geotourism initiatives when and wherever you travel.
Photos: via the Geotourism Challenge contest