Hawaii Forest & Trail Joins World Heritage Alliance

Leading partnership promotes sustainable tourism to World Heritage sites

By: Dawna Robertson

Hawaii Forest & Trail has taken its commitment of sustainable tourism to a global level by becoming a member of the World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (WHA). Founded by Expedia, Inc. and the United Nations Foundation, WHA operates with an initiative to support UNESCO's goal of promoting and protecting the 851 World Heritage sites around the globe.

"Sustainability along with environmental and social responsibility are core tenets of our business philosophy," said Rob Pacheco, owner and president of Hawaii Forest & Trail. "We are excited about joining the WHA, and working together to preserve our treasured cultural and natural resources."

Hawaii Forest & Trail will be implementing the WHA's training materials on sustainable tourism into its own extensive guide training program. Additionally, the underlying principles of the WHA encouraging social and environmental responsibility serve to strengthen ongoing projects like the removal of invasive species from a Stewardship Plot inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

"We're pleased to have Hawaii Forest & Trail joining the partnership," said Erika Harms, executive director of the WHA. "Together, we have the power to reach millions of people around the world, and to help both preserve and protect some of the world's most beautiful and significant sites.”

At the end of 2007, there were 50 members and partners of the WHA up from 15 in 2006. These members are working in seven countries to aid in the conservation of at least 20 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The WHA offers two levels of partnership, each being committed to advancing its mission. WHA members consist of travel industry companies, such as hotels, tour operators, travel agents, airlines, cruises and others. The WHA associate partners are civil society groups, government bodies, industry associations and other organizations that may not exclusively be devoted to tourism.

Members educate the traveling public about the WHA by providing informational materials, exclusive packages to World Heritage destinations, volunteer opportunities with local communities, and the ability for customers to purchase goods and services that are rooted in local cultures and environments.

WHA membership was a natural step for Hawaii Forest & Trail. As Hawaii's leading eco-tour operator, the company has offered guided adventures into The Big Island of Hawaii's remote natural areas since 1993. The firm was founded and is operated by Pacheco and his wife Cindy, who share their passion and knowledge of Hawaii's natural beauty with visitors from all over the world.

Hawaii Forest & Trail takes adventure lovers on journeys that include hiking to waterfalls, experiencing volcanoes, stargazing from the summit of Mauna Kea, walking in rainforests and spotting native birds in remote habitats.

New to the company are PinzTrek off-road adventures operated in Pinzgauer six-wheeled vehicles holding up to 12 guests. Whether fording mountain streams in Kohala, exploring the misty reaches of Hualalai, or rambling through tropical fruit orchards, explorers can expect to be entertained and educated. Each PinzTrek Adventure incorporates a walking element. So in addition to experiencing the thrill of off-road adventure, people also see the beauty and diversity of Hawaii at a slower, more relaxed pace.

Both the Kohala Wai and Holoholo Hualalai excursions run three to four hours each and are priced at $105 plus tax for those 12 and older, while the 2½-hour Hilo Waterfall trek is $89 plus tax. Rates are commissionable at 10 percent.