HONOLULU — The Sustainable Tourism Association of Hawaii honored the best in sustainable tourism at its annual Sustainable Tourism Halawai on Nov. 6.
STAH (previously known as Hawaii Ecotourism Association) is a local nonprofit organization that protects Hawaii’s unique natural environment and host culture by promoting responsible travel.
“Our annual Sustainable Tourism Halawai is an opportunity to recognize the tour operators and tour guides who are going above and beyond to support our local communities, natural resources, and Hawaiian culture,” said Lauren Blickley, STAH’s director of programs.
Kauai-based tour operators and guides took home top honors.
Kipu Ranch was named the 2019 Sustainable Tour Operator of the Year. Their notable sustainability efforts include the hiring of a plant and cultural resources specialist, on-going staff training and development (including Rapid ‘Ohi‘a Death and Hawaiian cultural training), propagation of native Hawaiian plants, reduction of single-use plastic food service items, and support of over 80 community organizations, including raising over $56,000 for Shriner’s Hospital.
“We’re so proud of Kipu Ranch,” Blickley said. “Year over year they’ve made an effort to improve their business and focus on the ‘3 P’s’ of sustainable tourism — People, Planet, and Profit.”
In addition, Jeremiah Felsen, owner of Kauai Hiking Tours, took home the Sustainable Tour Guide of the Year award.
Felsen has been a backcountry and adventure guide for over 20 years. He’s spent the last decade guiding throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Over the last year, Felsen has helped expand backcountry skills and Hawaiian cultural training for local guides. He regularly volunteers with the Napali Coast Ohana, Kauai Resource and Conservation Program, friends of the Kalalau Trail, and the Makauwahi Cave Reserve, and is a member of Na Ala Hele’s Advisory Council.
Felsen is additionally certified as a State of Hawaii Certified Professional Tour Guide and Wilderness First Responder.
Tour Operator of the Year awardees are chosen based on their annual recertification performance, Pono Traveler (“Secret Shopper”) feedback, and support of sustinable tourism initiatives.
STAH boasts 40 Certified Sustainable Tour Operators across the Hawaiian Islands through its certification program — the only third-party sustainable tourism certification in the United States.
STAH additionally honors the tour guides of Hawaii who best embody the core assets of quality ecotourism: effective interpretation, conservation of natural resources and authentic cultural experiences.