Certifying Hawaii's eco-tour companies

Published On: Sep 01 2013 02:17:00 PM HST

With the growth of eco-tourism in Hawaii, there is now a push to make sure tour companies show off our spectacular natural resources without making a big impact on the environment.

HONOLULU -

With the growth of eco-tourism in Hawaii, there is now a push to make sure tour companies show off spectacular natural resources without making a big impact on the environment.

On his Hawaiian vacation from Chicago, Mattheis Carley is gearing up for a workout: hours of mountain biking in Windward Oahu.

"I'm not a lay-at-the-beach type of person. I am more active. I am interested in seeing things that I wouldn't be able to see in a car or bus, that I can see on a bike," said Carley.

At Kualoa Ranch, Bike Hawaii has seen an increase in riders just like Carley ready to saddle up for eco-tours.

"It's a nice way to be introduced to Hawaii, you are outdoorsand you leave a light footprint," said tour guide Jeremy Wagner.

With increased interest in experiencing Hawaii's natural attractions, concern has grown over how companies protect island resources.

The Hawaii Ecotourism Association now certifies tour operators that meet its safeguarding standards.

"We look at how they conduct their groups, the size of groups, and how they warn them of hazards. We also see how they dispose of litter and how can they minimizeimpact to communities," said Alan Hong with the HEA.

Like a good housekeeping seal of approval, the certification sets guidelines for the entire industry and also gives visitors an idea of who is truly being green.

"A good portion of visitors are looking for tour companies that minimize the impact on our natural resources," said Hong.

Bike Hawaii and Kualoa Ranch are two of just a handful of Hawaii eco-tour companies already certified. As the numbers grow, there is hope more groups will reduce visitor's impact on the natural environment.

"Our impact is really zero. the bikes might leave a little track in the dust, that's about it really," said Wagner.

To find certified eco-tourism companies around Hawaii visit this link:
http://www.hawaiiecotourism.org/Default.aspx?pageId=167390

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