Voting has opened today, July 20, for the 2009 Ecotourism Spotlight Award.

Nominees for this year’s award include Quito Visitors’ Bureau, Responsible Tourism Guide to the Mekong (this site) Ecotourism Laos, Failte Ireland and Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas. Vote now.

Contenders have made the most of the Web in 2009 to engage locals and visitors. Examples of best practices include Failte Ireland’s ecotourism handbook for all 16,000 Irish tourism businesses and Quito’s documentation of eco activities including weekend bike rides. Web 2.0 tools are showcased on the Mekong site and multi-lingual information is showcased on the Mexico parks website. Two-time Ecotourism Spotlight Award winner Ecotourism Laos has been revising its site and shows how any good website is regularly updated to maintain its effectiveness.

“In 2009 we have more contenders than ever before,” said Planeta.com founder Ron Mader and director of the Ecotourism Spotlight Award. “The spotlight award shines attention on best practices and these nominees offer great examples for other government websites.”

Government websites that educate visitors about ecotourism and responsible travel options are eligible to win Planeta.com’s third annual Ecotourism Spotlight Award. Complete details are online the Planeta Wiki.

The winner is announced in celebration of World Tourism Day (September 27) as way of spotlighting best practice in responsible travel and ecotourism. The award was developed to create incentives for communication, opportunities for conversation and a reward for participation among government leaders working toward ecotourism and responsible travel.

Nominees are asked to review each other’s websites. “Connect with each other,” advises Mader. “While this is a competition, we also encourage collaboration. Learning from other leaders makes sense. All of these nominees are winners.”

Vote now.