2009 Geotourism Challenge

National Geographic in partnership with Ashoka’s Changemakers, is sponsoring the second annual global Geotourism Challenge: Power of Place—Sustaining the Future of our Destinations.
National Geographic defines geotourism as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place -its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. Geotourism incorporates the concept of sustainable tourism -that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations- while allowing for enhancement that protects the character of the locale. Geotourism also adopts a principle from its cousin, ecotourism -that tourism revenue can promote conservation- and extends that principle beyond nature travel to encompass culture and history as well: all distinctive assets of a place.

Tranquilo Bay is participating in this challenge. We submitted an application for our Bocas Adventure project. You can see our application here. Our Bocas Adventure project will create a facility adjacent to Bastimentos National Marine Park that provides sustainable public access to the area’s parks and reserves. As you know, Bocas del Toro, Panama is an ecologically sensitive area. Current estimates show 100,000 travelers visit Bocas del Toro each year. Currently, there are no facilities providing sustainable public access to the area’s parks and reserves. Bocas Adventure will immerse visitors in our community’s local and natural history, culture, ecology, flora and fauna. We will use sustainable activities such as arts, hiking, kayaking, research, snorkeling and wildlife viewing as educational and cultural exchange tools to enlighten visitors and provide sustainable employment to the community. Bocas Adventure gives the entire demographic spectrum visiting Bocas del Toro (from backpackers to wealthy travelers) access to the extreme biodiversity found within and adjacent to Bastimentos National Marine Park.

Bocas Sustainable Tourism Alliance is also participating in the challenge. You can see the BSTA application here. Bocas Sustainable Tourism Alliance is an organization here in Bocas del Toro that we are working with on destination management among other pressing issues. The ultimate goal of BSTA is to conserve one of the most important watersheds in Central America. Currently, the remarkable ecology of the Bocas del Toro watershed is under threat from unplanned and incongruous tourism and residential development. To respond to the threat of unplanned development, tourism stakeholders in the region have decided to create a Destination Management Organization (DMO), known as the Bocas Sustainable Tourism Alliance (BSTA), with the following objectives: (i) develop best management practices for stakeholders in the Bocas del Toro watershed: (ii) inform tourists about the culture and nature based activities that can be experienced in Bocas and facilitate booking of these activities through a geotourism information center and Web site (www.discoverbocasdeltoro.com) (iii) diversify the tourism products available in Bocas by identifying and supporting the development of culture and nature based tours and packages; (iv) facilitate training programs for natural resource management, guiding, and other tourism services; and (v) generate revenue to support local conservation efforts in the region.

Right now, there are 415 nominations from 74 countries and 1048 nominations from 112 countries. Latin America has the strongest presence in the challenge because the MIF, through its Sustainable Tourism Cluster (STC), has signed partnership agreements with National Geographic and Ashoka Changemakers aiming to promote and support geotourism initiatives that benefit local communities by improving the competitiveness, social use and sustainability of tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean. MIF’s STC will select and co-finance 20 projects from institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean proposed through the Geotourism Challenge 2009.

The Geotourism Challenge is completely on a Web 2.0 platform. You are welcome to peruse the entries and make comments on any of them. We would love it if you took a look at our application and let us know what you think. You will have to join the website to provide comments or nominations. Voting for the challenge opens in Fall 2009. Good luck to all the participants.

One thought on “2009 Geotourism Challenge

  1. Hola Renee and Jim! I tried to vote and leave a comment for Bocas Adventure – not sure if it worked out, so I'll post it here. It went something like this:
    This is a thorough proposal for a critical initiative in Bocas del Toro. Impressive! Well done Jim and Renee. I wish you all success and abundance.
    pura vida,
    Dawna

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