HONOLULU- Hawaii Ecotourism Association (HEA) announced the winners of environmentally-friendly tourism awards at a luncheon today in Waikiki. Seventeen tour operators were honored by HEA, a local nonprofit organization that protects Hawaii’s unique natural environment and host culture by promoting responsible travel. The event marked HEA’s 20th Anniversary.
Hawaiian Legacy Tours, a company known for sustaining the environment by planting native Koa forests on Hawaii Island, was awarded with the coveted 2014 Certified 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 the Board of Directors of HEA.
The 2014 Ecotour Guides of the Year were announced as follows (Maui County winners are highlighted in bold type):
- From Maui – Jason Lee of Maui Kayak Adventures
- From Oahu – Ka’iulani Manuwai-Oiph of Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks
- From the Kona side of Hawaii – Denver Leaman of Body Glove Cruises
- From the Hilo side of Hawaii- Erik Storm of VolcanoDiscovery Hawaii
- The Travel Writer of the Year was awarded to Maui-raised Kyle Ellison, author of “Moon Maui Guidebook,” a book that educates visitors on how to respect and protect the natural resources and culture while enjoying their Hawaiian vacation adventures.
Seventeen tour operators were honored for having achieved HEA’s Sustainable Tourism Certification for the 2014-2016 term. They are as follows: Atlantis Adventures, Bike Hawaii, Holokai Kayak & Snorkel Adventure, Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks, Ko Olina Ocean Adventures, Kualoa Ranch, Pacific Islands Institute, Wild Side Specialty Tours, Hawaiian Paddle Sports, Maui Kayak Adventures, Pacific Whale Foundation, Trilogy Excursions, Fair Wind Cruises, Hawaii Forest & Trail, Hawaiian Legacy Tours, Big Island Divers, and Volcano Discovery Hawaii.
“As a founding member of the organization, it is really exciting to see the goal of tour operator certification finally come to fruition,” said Annette Kaohelaulii, former President on the Board of which she is currently a member. The Sustainable Tourism Certification process was developed to ensure tour operator and visitor industry accountability for the impact their business may have on the unique natural and cultural resources of Hawaii and to promote sustainable and restorative practices as part of Hawaii’s visitor industry product. In April 2013, Hawaii Tourism Authority awarded funding to HEA, to ensure implementation of the program permanently in Hawaii’s visitor industry.
The 2014 HEA Annual Awards Luncheon commemorates the 20th anniversary of the 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. HEA was formed by members of the planning committee of the Statewide Conference on Ecotourism in 1994.