MAALAEA - The Hawaii Ecotourism Association will begin its Ecotour Certification Program starting with a Tuesday public meeting on Maui.
Later meetings will be held on the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai.
The program aims to give visitors and residents more information when choosing an ecotour, ensuring the tour is right for them, good for the community and good for Hawaii's environment.
The Ecotour Certification Program marks the culmination of efforts between the Hawaii Ecotourism Association, the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
"We live in a unique place, like nowhere else in the world," said Hawaii Ecotourism Association President Chris Colvin. "For that reason, we felt that existing certification programs needed to progress, ensuring the sustainability of Hawaii's dynamic mix of nature and culture. We needed a solution that would ultimately enhance the visitor experience."
The certification pilot program will begin with a limited number of operators being evaluated. From these initial evaluations, the program will refine the certification process.
Public discussion will begin on Maui at the Pacific Whale Foundation Discovery Center in Maalaea at 5:30 p.m., followed by a short presentation by a Hawaii Ecotourism Association board member and professor Linda Cox, a community economic development specialist with the UH Cooperative Extension Service.
The second meeting will be on Hawaii island at the NELHA Gateway Center in Kailua-Kona on June 16. Additional meetings on Oahu and Kauai will be announced at www.hawaiiecotourism.org.