Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Geotourism Challenge! The second annual competition to name outstanding efforts in sustainable tourism, sponsored by National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations and Ashoka’s Changemakers, unearthed a wealth of innovative efforts taking place around the globe. After an intense voting process, the panel of judges today named the three winners out of 611 original entries from 81 countries. Each of these organizations wins $5,000, which goes toward the further development of their program. And the winners are:
Nature Air, the 100 percent carbon-neutral airline in Costa Rica, offsets 100 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions to encourage reforestation of tropical forests in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. To date, Nature Air has compensated for nearly 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide through the protection of more than 500 acres. In addition, Nature Air recently helped develop Costa Rica’s first alternative fueling station through its wholly owned fueling company, Aerotica. Nature Air fuels all ground equipment and vehicles with bio-diesel (a mix of recycled vegetable and cooking oils) collected from employees and restaurants.
PEPY (“Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself”), Cambodia’s Educational Volunteer Tourism Program, providing adventure bike tours and on-site volunteer projects, like building rainwater collection units. All participants make donations to enhance education in impoverished rural Cambodia, where PEPY is based. It supports education for more than 1,700 families in 12 villages and six schools in rural Siem Reap Province, about 40 miles from the city of Siem Reap, site of the Angkor temples.
Wikiloc Community Maps in Girona, Spain, created by a software engineer with a passion for travel, is built on information — including maps, photos and video — submitted to offer honest impressions about destinations. Wikiloc is a great source of outdoor activities, from mountain biking to ballooning. The site also promotes thematic activities like gastronomic routes, sightseeing urban trails and walks in archaeological areas. Created in 2006, the site is already translated in 14 languages, and more than 65,000 trails are included.
Thanks to all those of you who submitted entries and voted in this year’s contest. Visit the Geotourism Challenge website for more information on each of the winners, and to learn more about all of the finalists.
Photo: A cyclist from PEPY, Cambodia’s Educational Volunteer Tourism program