Several members of the Maui community were honored recently at the Hawaii Ecotourism Association (HEA) awards luncheon at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel. HEA honored ecotour operators, guides, writers and volunteers for their contributions to sustainable tourism in Hawaii.
The coveted 2016 Sustainable Tour Operator Award went to Valley Isle Excursions, a company known providing luxury and eco-friendly tours to Hana and the road beyond. “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.
Maui awardees also included Shannon Wianecki who was honored as travel writer of the year. Wianecki is a freelance writer who shares the natural and cultural history of the Hawaiian Islands with the readers of local and international travel magazines and books.
Maui Ecotour Guides of the Year included Rowdy Lindsey of Hawaiian Paddle Sports and Curtis Geary of Maui Kayak Adventures; both companies are owned by Timothy Lara.
Twenty-three tour operators were certified statewide as sustainable tour operators by HEA, a local nonprofit organization that protects Hawaii’s unique natural environment and host culture by promoting responsible travel. Maui’s certified tour operators include 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.
“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.
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.
Photo (left to right) of Curtis Geary, Rowdy Lindsey and Timothy Lara courtesy Hawaiian Paddle Sports