The Geotourism Challenge 2010 is now open, looking forward to seeing the entries!

The Geotourism Challenge 2010, from National Geographic, Ashoka’s Changemakers and the Inter-American Development Bank, launched this week. The aim this year is to search for innovative solutions in coastal tourism destinations that will protect the environment and benefit local communities.

That is a search we have been getting on with for a while now, so it made sense to get involved this year. We will be selecting three of the most action-packed entries from all of the Geotourism Challenge 2010 entrants to receive a free, lifetime, upgraded level of membership to, as well as access to services and mentoring from some expert people we are lucky enough to work with. Full details of the prize here.

Last years competition saw 610 amazing entries from 81 countries. Quite a few of those entrants now have their unforgettable adventures opportunities on our site, including one of the winners, Pepy cycle rides in Cambodia, and one of the finalists, the Ger to Ger Foundation – Nomad centred Mongolian adventures. You can contact them direct through us we never take commissions.

We are proud to be a part of this important initiative, and hope you will get involved nominating or suggesting places. Thanks to the guys who worked with us to develop the prize and will be offering mentoring to the winners:

Ben Keene, Founder of Tribewanted, a social entrepreneur, speaker, and writer with expertise in social media, brand and digital development for social enterprise.

Afzaal Mauthoor, Managing Director of Way Out Experiences, who can offer advice on business development for social enterprises working within responsible tourism.

Vishwaraj Gyawali, Founder and Managing Director of Social Tours and Social Treks, who has expertise in responsible tourism business design and development.

Michael Ward, Founder and Managing Director of Equator Media, who is skilled in social media marketing and social environmental change.

Lisa Bailey and Tom Freeman, Directors of 18a productions, are partners in web design, development and strategy.

Matt Hocking, Founder and Creative Director of Leap Media, who has expertise in brand design and development.

Looking forward to seeing a few of our current members in the mix too!

Here is a bit more about the competition:

The Geotourism Challenge 2010: Places on the Edge – Saving Coastal & Freshwater Destinations seeks sustainable models from organizations of all sizes, individuals, and global corporations that enhancerather than degradethe unique character and beauty of oceans, rivers, bays, lakes, estuaries, and waterways, and the culture and heritage of their inhabitants. Entries are accepted until December 1, 2010.

“If you live by the water, or have visited shoreline destinations, you know the beauty and fragility of these places,” said Jonathan B. Tourtellot, National Geographic Fellow and founding director, Center for Sustainable Destinations. “Coastal destinations are under intense pressure from mass tourism, real estate development, and resource extraction. That can not only destroy natural habitats, it can degrade the very character of the place. Local culture, architecture, sceneryall are at risk. What’s more, the marine food chain depends on healthy shorelines. Its up to us to keep these places intact, to continue enjoying them responsibly, and to learn from them.”

A panel of independent judges will select between 10 and 15 finalists from all of the entries submitted in the competition. You can then get involved. From these 10-15 finalists, the Changemakers online community will vote for three winners, who will receive a prize of USD $5000 each.

The IDBs Multilateral Investment Fund will also provide up to a total US $5 million of co-financing for competition entries that provide innovative ideas for sustainable destination management by micro- to medium-sized companies in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region.

Judges for the Places on the Edge: Saving Coastal& Freshwater Destinations competition include Julia Marton-Lefvre, Director General of the World Conservation Union; Dr. Sylvia Earle, Ocean Explorer and Founder and CEO of the Deep Search Foundation; and Ashoka Fellow, Yves Lesenfants, technical advisor of the IDB Multilateral Investment Fund (FOMIN), as well as the social founder of the Programa Andes Tropicales Foundation.

We are confident that this online competition will identify sustainable business models for the worlds coasts and shorelines that respect the values of geotourism, said Sushmita Ghosh, President Emerita of Ashoka. Tourism can sustain or enhance the geographical character of a place, its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture and the well-being of its residents. We look forward to learning about many innovative ideas from the Places on the Edge entrants.”