Acknowledging the growing ecological awareness sweeping the country, Kinneret College is introducing a course of study in ecologically centered tourism, in cooperation with the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority. Citing a growing desire by tourists to engage in ecologically conscious endeavors, the program's coordinator, Meron Doctori, said he believes it's high time "eco-tourism" became a household word. The college has long offered a standard tour-guide certification program. "I have colleagues who are still working as tour guides, and they tell me, suddenly people want to know how 'green' a hotel is, or what kind of carbon ratings or gas mileage the tour jeep gets. But regular tour guides aren't equipped with the knowledge base or language to correctly answer those questions, so I saw that as an opportunity to improve," he said. "If you look at western countries, especially European countries, they're already quite advanced in this type of tourism, which takes into consideration environmentally sensitive issues," said Doctori, who worked as a tour guide for nearly a decade before beginning to teach tour guide classes at the college. "In Israel, we're lagging behind in this area, but I think we still have time to catch up - it's better late than never." In that vein, Doctori began working on an academic track that combines the basics of tour-guide training with an environmentally nuanced focus. The 18-month program, slated to begin this summer, will combine 560 hours of study and 70 days of fieldwork to produce graduates well versed in archeology, history, art, and religion, as well as in water conservation, recycling, energy efficiency, vegetation, geography, and society and government in Israel. Doctori said the cooperation with the INNPPA gave the venture more potential for success, by adding credence to the course. "This course is the only one of its kind in Israel," Doctori said. "And we're all extremely excited to get started." Doctori believes that times are changing in the world of tourism, and as ecological and environmental issues continue to grow in importance around the world, they become an issue important to tourists. "It's already started happening," Doctori said. The importance of the ecological curriculum, he explained, is not just to stay abreast of this trend; it's also to become a part of it. "I believe that environmental consciousness is important," Doctori said. "And I want tourists to learn about these issues as well. "For example, when people come to the Kinneret, it's important that their tour guide doesn't just explain the historical or religious importance of the location. They need to express the fact that this is the most important source of water in Israel and that it constantly struggles with pollution. "I think if they can impart that, it will resonate with the tourists, be they from overseas or from Israel, and hopefully they'll have more incentive to keep the Kinneret - or other places they visit - clean, because they'll understand why it's important." Since the students will be conveying a message of environmental responsibility to their future tour groups, the program aims to provide them more with just tour-guide certification. "They're becoming representatives of these ideas," Doctori said of students who decide to undertake this track. "Of course their job is to lead tours, but it's also to get a message across."