Hoping to encourage more environmentally friendly tourism practices across the state, the Hawaii Ecotourism Association recognized 14 companies with its first Certified Ecotour Operators classification late last month.
Honorees in the gold classification were Atlantis Adventures on Oahu, Maui’s Trilogy Excursions and Volcano Discovery on the Island of Hawaii.
Cited in the silver classification were Hike Maui, Pacific Whale Foundation and Hawaiian Paddle Sports on Maui; Kualoa Ranch and Wide Specialty Tours on Oahu; Kayak Kauai; and the statewide operation Pacific Islands Institute.
Bronze recognition went to Annette’s Adventures and Bike Hawaii on Oahu and Hawaii Forest and Trail on the Big Island of Hawaii.
“The purpose of certification is to support, promote, educate, and strengthen on-the-ground tourism practices with respect to honoring and caring for our natural and cultural resources, resulting in better resource conservation, higher visitor satisfaction and more community support for the visitor industry,” HEA President Chris Colvin said in a statement.
Companies were evaluated based on a scoring system measuring commitment to HEA ecotourism principals, including long-term sustainability plans, community-based environmental initiatives and providing direct experiences with nature.
The Hawaii Ecotourism Association was founded in 1994 and features a membership of tour and lodging operators, community organizations and travel writers.