Hawaii Ecotourism Association will honor 17 tour operators

Seventeen tour operators will be recognized by the Hawaii Ecotourism Association (HEA), a local nonprofit organization that protects Hawaii’s unique natural environment and host culture by promoting responsible travel, at their Annual Awards Luncheon on Sept. 17 at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel on Oahu. The luncheon will also celebrate HEA’s 20th anniversary.

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Seventeen tour operators will be recognized by the Hawaii Ecotourism Association (HEA), a local nonprofit organization that protects Hawaii’s unique natural environment and host culture by promoting responsible travel, at their Annual Awards Luncheon on Sept. 17 at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel on Oahu. The luncheon will also celebrate HEA’s 20th anniversary.

The tour operators being recognized at the luncheon have 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 VolcanoDiscovery Hawaii.

The finalists for consideration for the 2014 Certified Sustainable Tour Operator Award are as follows: Hawaii Forest &Trail, Maui Kayak Adventures, Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks, and Hawaiian Legacy Tours. Additional awards to be announced at the luncheon are the Ecotour Guides of the Year and the Travel Writer of the Year.

“These outstanding examples of a sustainable tour operation far exceed HEA’s mission and goal of protecting the unique natural and cultural resources of Hawaii nei,” said Annette Kaohelaulii, a founding member and former President on the Board of which she is currently a member.

The 2014 HEA Annual Awards Luncheon commemorates the 20th Anniversary of the 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. The Hawaii Ecotourism Association was formed by members of the planning committee of the Statewide Conference on Ecotourism held in 1994. HEA’s mission is to protect Hawaii’s unique natural environment and host culture through the promotion of responsible travel and educational programs relating to sustainable tourism for residents, businesses and visitors. Members include ecotour and lodging operators, community and environmental organizations, educational institutions, travel writers, students and individuals with an interest in conserving and protecting the natural and cultural resources of the Islands of Hawaii.

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 refine the pilot certification program that was developed in 2011 and implement the program permanently in Hawaii’s visitor industry.

A silent auction will be part of the event with tour packages, hotel vacations, native plants and a variety of other specialty items, all donated by members of the organization and the community.

The locally sourced menu features fusion dishes made with local ingredients, such as Kualoa Ranch grass-fed beef, prepared by Executive Chef James Aptakin of the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel.

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Registration and the silent auction starts at 11 a.m. at 2500 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 in the Prince Edward Ballroom and continues until 1:30 p.m. Winners will be announced at the close of the event,or by phone if not in attendance.

Luncheon registration is now open at www.hawaiiecotourism.org . HEA members $55 per person, nonmembers $60 per person. In celebration of 20 years, HEA is offering discounted memberships for those who support their mission at a discounted price of $20. For more information, contact Annette at admin@hawaiiecotourism.org or call 235-5431.

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