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Companies honored for contributions to sustainable tourism

By Staff | Sep 29, 2016

Maui Nei Native Expeditions kumu include (from left) Wainani Kealoha, Anuhea Yagi, Kalapana Kollars and Maile Keawe Bryan. Last week, the Lahaina company was awarded Sustainable Tourism Certification by the Hawaii Ecotourism Association for 2016-18. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY MARTINEZ.

HONOLULU – The Hawaii Ecotourism Association (HEA) announced the winners of sustainable tourism awards at a luncheon last week in Waikiki.

Twenty-three tour operators were certified as sustainable tour operators by HEA, a local nonprofit organization that protects Hawaii’s unique natural environment and host culture by promoting responsible travel.

Valley Isle Excursions, a company known for providing luxury and eco-friendly tours to Hana and the road beyond, was awarded the 2016 Sustainable Tour Operator Award.

“This outstanding example of a sustainable tour operation far exceeds HEA’s mission and goal of protecting the unique natural and cultural resources of Hawaii Nei,” said Aaron Lowe, president of HEA’s Board of Directors.

Rowdy Lindsey of Hawaiian Paddle Sports and Curtis Geary of Maui Kayak Adventures were honored as the 2016 Ecotour Guides of the Year for Maui.

The Travel Writer of the Year was awarded to Shannon Wianecki. She is a prolific freelance writer who shares the natural and cultural history of the Hawaiian Islands with the readers of local and international travel magazines and books.

At the event, tour operators were awarded HEA’s Sustainable Tourism Certification for 2016-18, including Aloha Kayaks Maui, Maui Nei Native Expeditions, Haleakala Bike Company, Temptation Tours, Maui Dreams Dive Company, Valley Isle Excursions, Maui Ocean Center, Maui Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Maui Surf Lessons, and Hawaii Mermaid Adventures on Maui.

“As a founding member of the organization, I am excited that the number of certified operators across the state more than doubled since the 2014-2016 certifications were awarded,” said Annette Kaohelaulii, HEA board treasurer.

Maui Nei Native Expeditions in Lahaina was pleased to earn the certification.

“Maui Nei Native Expeditions, an educational program of the Friends of Moku’ula, is honored to be part of the Hawaii Ecotourism ‘ohana. We’re committed to Native Hawaiian cultural practices as well as environmental and cultural interpretation management to convey the principles of sustainable tourism to our guests,” noted Karee Carlucci, program director for Maui Nei Native Expeditions.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority supports HEA’s efforts to educate commercial tour operators and community stakeholders on best management practices for the use of natural and cultural resources.

HEA’s Certification Program is only one of two statewide programs in the U.S. providing a third party, comprehensive assessment of tour providers whose operations positively affect the state’s natural and cultural resources, contribute to conservation and help sustain local communities.