KELOWNA – To commemorate World Earth Day, The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) came together with four other regional destination management organization counterparts under the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat (BCRTS), including the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, Kootenay Rockies, Northern B.C. and Tourism Vancouver Island, to support their signing of a letter of commitment to pursue the Responsible Tourism Institute’s Biosphere certification. TOTA successfully received this designation in 2017, and is proud to work with regional partners to help further collective initiatives and make a far-reaching positive impact.
“The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association is in very select company and has distinguished itself as a leader among destination management organizations across the globe,” says Anthony Everett, Chair of the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat. “The ultimate certification of five regional associations is one that will resonate with visitors around the world, when it is safe for them to travel and once again visit our
province which is home to many of the most beautiful destinations found anywhere.”
Since achieving the status in November 2017, the team at TOTA has been working with regional communities and tourism stakeholders to broaden the reach of this initiative. Through the certification, the Biosphere Commitment Program was created to assist regional businesses in their efforts to become responsible, sustainable tourism operators. One example of this is the Eco-Efficiency program, whereby TOTA works one-on-one with stakeholders to provide guidance for reducing energy, water, and waste outputs through an onsite assessment program as well as carbon software training.
“Now more than ever, destination management organizations must address challenges such as social license, safety and responsibility in a way they never have before,” said TOTA Senior Vice President and Acting CEO Ellen Walker-Mathews. “These efforts will also communicate to travellers that we adhere and are committed to ideals that parallel their own.”
Guided by the certification and by working in collaboration with industry, TOTA is able to collect data pertaining to key tourism issue areas. This baseline data assists us in better understanding the positive and negative impacts tourism has on our community systems and social well being, and to work to make adjustments accordingly. Sustainable and regenerative tourism are critical long term goals. Our ongoing efforts will help direct us towards making lasting improvements that will benefit generations to come.