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National Geographic Society and Ashoka’s Changemakers Launch Online Contest Seeking Top Innovators in Sustainable Tourism

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WASHINGTON (Feb. 18, 2009)—The National Geographic Society and Ashoka’s Changemakers today opened the entry process for the second annual “Geotourism Challenge” to showcase how tourism done well sustains, enhances and preserves local culture and the environment. The competition will identify individuals worldwide who have introduced the most innovative practices in tourism and destination stewardship.

Conducted in partnership with Ashoka’s Changemakers, the global Geotourism Challenge will accept online applications at through May 20, 2009. Applicants must demonstrate an innovation that protects destination quality and furthers geotourism, defined by National Geographic 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 period, anyone can debate, endorse or provide additional information on the entries. A distinguished panel of judges — including Keith Bellows, editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine, and Erika Harms, United Nations Foundation’s executive director for sustainable development — will review the applications and select the finalists. The online community will then vote for the Geotourism Challenge winners, who will be announced this summer. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $5,000.

“This year’s competition theme, ‘Power of Place — Sustaining the Future of Destinations,’ focuses on protecting the locales where history, culture and nature live. We want to recognize business and civic innovators who sustain distinctive places for the enjoyment of current and future generations,” said Jonathan Tourtellot, director of National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations.

Last year’s Geotourism Challenge produced 320 nominations from 83 countries. The three winners and 12 finalists gathered at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters in October to present their innovative business models at the first Geotourism Change Summit attended by 150 country dignitaries and representatives of funding institutions and tourism-industry, conservation and preservation groups. The competition also created an online community of geotourism activists, ranging from preservationists to developers. All can use competition results and resources to apply holistic geotourism principles locally by consulting the Changemakers Web site,

The 2008 winners were a program in Ecuador’s Amazon region to provide Amazonian youth with an academic degree in nature tourism; an outfitter in Nepal that trains women to be trekking professionals in a culture that offers women limited job opportunities; and an eco-lodge in Costa Rica that is teaching native Cabecar Indians how to manage the business in one of the country’s celebrated rain forests.

“Changemakers is very excited about this opportunity to partner once again with National Geographic to highlight this important issue,” said Ashoka’s Changemakers Executive Director Charlie Brown. “Our last competition revealed a wide selection of amazing innovations in geotourism. We are looking forward to many more such creative projects surfacing this spring within the Changemakers community.”

The Geotourism Challenge is one of the key programs of National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD). For more information on geotourism and destination stewardship, visit

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 325 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, visit

About Ashoka’s Changemakers
Ashoka’s Changemakers focuses on the rapidly growing world of social innovation. It provides solutions and resources needed to help everyone become a changemaker and presents compelling stories that explore the fundamental principles of successful social innovation around the world. Ashoka’s Changemakers is building the world’s first online community committed to social change through networking and global competitions. Ashoka’s Changemakers begins by providing an overarching intellectual framework for collaborative competitions that bring together individual social change initiatives into a more powerful whole. For details, visit


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