A prestigious panel of judges selected the 14 finalists from 332 entries, from 83 countries. The "Geotourism Challenge: Celebrating Places/Changing Lives" competition is a collaboration of National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destinations and Ashoka's Changemakers.
Blue Ventures' entry -- "Using tourism as a conservation tool to protect people and nature" -- was selected for an 'outstanding demonstration of innovation, social impact, and sustainability'.
The online contest was created to discover and support entrepreneurs with innovative approaches to geotourism, 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.
The four judges who reviewed submissions and selected the finalists were Keith Bellows, vice president of the National Geographic Society and editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine; Susan Berresford, past president of the Ford Foundation; Leonard Cordiner, CEO of WHL Travel; and Nachiket Mor, president of the ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth.
"I was stunned at the quality of the applications," said Bellows. "They showcased great innovation that can be exported to other countries, terrific successes against long odds and a far-reaching global distribution of projects. Not only did the entries make fascinating reading, but I was inspired by the vision, imagination, passion and entrepreneurship of the people who are making a difference in the lives of locals and travelers."
The global online community can vote for the three winners, until Wednesday, June 11, at www.changemakers.net. The winners will be announced on Tuesday, June 17, and each will receive a cash prize of US $5,000.
"The Geotourism Challenge received entries from the most countries for any collaborative competition we've held so far," said Charlie Brown, executive director of Changemakers. "This shows that the Changemakers global online community is influential in surfacing innovators who are helping destinations benefit from tourism while protecting the assets that make their places special."
National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destinations is dedicated to protecting the world's distinctive places through wisely managed geotourism and enlightened destination stewardship.
Ashoka's Changemakers is building an "open source" online community that competes to surface the best social solutions to the world's most pressing issues. To date, Changemakers has attracted more than 3,500 solutions from more than 145 countries.
Blue Ventures is an award-winning marine conservation organisation dedicated to conservation, education and sustainable development in tropical coastal communities.