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Public Invited to Vote for Best Indigenous Tourism Website

The nominees are in and voting is underway for the 2010 Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award (ITBWA). Fifteen tourism operations representing 10 countries will compete for the award, which recognizes private tourism enterprises owned and operated in a sustainable manner by indigenous and local communities pursuing traditional lifestyles. Two awards will be given, one selected by a panel of experts in responsible, sustainable, and indigenous tourism, and the other chosen by the public through an online vote.

The ITBWA is a joint initiative between Planeta.com and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), with financial support from the Heidehof Foundation. According to Planeta, the primary objectives of the ITBWA are “to motivate candidates to improve their online communication on biological and cultural diversity, to highlight their best practices in managing tourism and to raise operators and public’s awareness on biodiversity.”

Planeta founder Ron Mader explains, “It’s clear to me that indigenous tourism operations get a lot of technical training in most areas except for online marketing. Websites and web presence are perceived as too complicated, too costly, too time-consuming or a mix of all of the above. But it doesn’t have to be this way. What is needed is for indigenous tourism operators themselves to take charge of telling their own stories via the Web.”

The nominees represent a broad selection of tourism services, from hiking and mountain bike excursions to yak polo competitions, reindeer treks, eco-lodges, and cultural performances. They include operations in Mexico, Australia, Pakistan, Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, Sweden, Micronesia, Canada, New Zealand, and Laos.

“The message is coming across that whenever you are making travel plans, you can look for an indigenous operation that fits into your schedule,” says Mader. Particularly exciting is the number of nominees who are making use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.

Mader hopes the award will inspire other indigenous tourism operators to create quality websites to enhance both sales and education. He adds, “It’s not just about bums on seats. It’s about cultivating a respect of cultural and natural heritage. Most travelers want to be do the right thing – be ethical – but they need guidelines and protocols in advance. Websites such as those of the nominees help steer the right visitors to the right places.”

Members of the public are encouraged to review the websites of the nominees and vote once between now and February 19. To cast your vote, visit: www.surveymonkey.com/s/T6LGNYJ. Further information about the awards is available at: planeta.wikispaces.com/itbw.

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