“Pono” means “to do what is right”. To Travel Pono is to travel consciously and respectfully. We encourage visitors to explore Hawaii in a manner that is respectful of the Native Hawaiian culture, wildlife and environment, and local residents.
Our Pono Traveler program is designed to help Hawaii Ecotourism Association managers and our certified operators gain feedback to improve their operations to be more sustainable. Learn about this program and join now.
Sustainable Tourism is defined by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. The Hawaii Tourism Authority defines it as a way to maximize social and economic benefits to Hawaii’s communities and businesses while respecting, nourishing, preserving and enhancing Hawaii’s natural, cultural and human assets.
We incorporate the spirit of both definitions into our certification program.
Hawaii Ecotourism Association provides an independent verification system to distinguish industry leaders in sustainable tourism.
Get Certified Start The Checklist
The principle: Operator supports the Hawaii Ecotourism Association’s mission and has shown that commitment through membership in the organization.
The principle: Operation is in compliance with all Federal, State, and Local regulations for all
products/services, and commits to abide by all necessary permit conditions.
The principle: Operation has a written Sustainability Commitment Statement that guides its operations and demonstrates commitment to HEA Sustainable Tourism principles.
The Sustainability Commitment Statement must:
The principle: Operation is a commercial endeavor primarily engaged in providing guided
tours and/or activities.
The principle: Interpretation provided to guests while on tour about nature and/or culture
must be accurate and able to be referenced.
The principle: Through its marketing materials the operator provides accurate and responsible
information about products and services.
The principle: The company has system to continuously monitor and analyze its operations and act upon the feedback provided by both guests and employees.
The principle: Operation contributes to conservation outcomes annually.
The principle: Operation makes ongoing, positive contributions to the community annually.
The principle: Tour operator employs environmentally sustainable practices to ensure that
their activities do not degrade the environment.
Note: Sustainable practices should be employed at the operation’s storefront, headquarters and/or base of operations and during each tour. However, the operation may not own the building or other square footage that contains the operation’s storefront, headquarters and/or storage facility. In these cases, check Not Applicable and explain.
Pictures or evidence should be provided to demonstrate other qualifying.
The principle: Water consumption is minimized and the water accessed/used is protected.
Suggested examples include:
The principle: Noise pollution is minimized to reduce impact on the natural environment, provide guests the opportunity to hear the natural sounds, and for staff safety.
The principle: Tour operation has a minimal impact on air quality and greenhouse gas
The principle: The waste management hierarchy of REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE underpins operations of the tour product.
The principle: Tour operators strive for maximum energy-efficiency and reduced usage of
fossil fuels/nonrenewable energy.
The principle: Tour operator has demonstrated increased awareness and a shared responsibility for resources conservation and risk management within its field operations.
The principle: Tour operators hire guides and staff based on their knowledge and qualifications in the field of sustainable tourism; provide accurate and appropriate training to ensure quality of ecotourism experience to guests; and encourage staff professional development.
The principle: Tour operators provide all guests with accurate information and foster a better
understanding and appreciation of the ecological and cultural heritage of the place being visited.
The principle: Tourism products shall include at least one face-to-face or one static interpretation opportunity which allows visitors to learn more about the natural and cultural resources of the area being visited.
The principle: Content used for interpretive materials and activities is accurate according to credible reference and is relevant to both the site and audience. Sources of major interpretive narratives are verified through cross checking with (please detail below.
The principle: The company continuously monitors its operations and analyzes and acts upon the feedback provided by guests and employees to ensure that tour products meet or exceed consumer expectations.
Please submit a copy of the most recent evaluation management report.
Please submit current evaluation questionnaire with application. See Appendix C for a sample evaluation questionnaire.
The principle: Through its marketing materials the operator provides as much information before the tour as possible to set appropriate guest expectations and allow for pre-departure learning.
The principle: The items in this area are considered important, however may not be practical for most tour operators and should not count against the overall scoring of an organization.
The principle: Operation has a written sustainability plan that which measures and tracks various measures of sustainability and guides its operations to demonstrate a commitment to HEA Sustainable Tourism principles.
The Sustainability Plan must (all required items):
Tour operator must supply a copy of your Sustainability Plan for credit. See Appendix D for a sample Sustainability Plan.
I acknowledge that:
1. Our business complies with all federal, state and city permits and laws.
2. All the measures identified on this checklist are currently implemented by our business.
3. All the information contained herein and information attached to this application is true and correct.
I hereby certify that the statements and information in this application form are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Help stop the destruction of our forests. Please utilize these tips and videos to help stop the spread of Rapid Ohia Death.
Below are some helpful hints travelers to Hawaii might want to keep in mind during their adventure to the islands, so that their ecological footprint on Hawaii will be minimal.
Learn about ecotourism and sustainability from respected experts in the field. Utilize our library to make sustainable travel and business decisions.
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Hawaii Ecotourism Association
PO Box 491
Kahului, HI 96733
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