Last week, National Geographic was proud to be the host of the first-ever Geotourism Challenge Summit, which took place Oct. 14 and 15 at our headquarters in Washington, DC. The summit brought together winners and finalists of the Geotourism Challenge – a global competition of tourism-related projects that promote natural and cultural heritage while improving the well-being of local residents (you can learn more about the project from the video, above).
The three winners–the Yachana Foundation (Ecuador), 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking (Nepal), and Rios Tropicales (Costa Rica)– were selected out of a total of 321 entries from 83 countries for their innovative approaches in promoting geotourism, which is 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.” Each of the three winning projects received a $5,000 award. The competition was carried out by Ashoka’s Changemakers and the National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD).
Summit participants discussed a series of new geotourism initiatives. Beginning in 2009, the Global Geotourism Network plans to provide an Internet-based platform for tourism professionals and travelers to share information and tools to develop projects and set new standards for destination stewardship. The network is a project of the Montreal-based Centre of Excellence for Destinations (CED) in collaboration with the CSD.
A second Geotourism Challenge sponsored by National Geographic and Ashoka will be launched in January 2009.