Published On: Friday, 26 April 2019

TOTA - Driving the Potential of the Thompson Okanagan

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) is a not-for-profit society which represents business and community tourism interests throughout the region and has been driving the message of Sustainable and Responsible Tourism Development and Delivery since the release of the Thompson Okanagan 10 year Regional Strategy "Embracing Our Potential" in 2012. 

Over the past year and certainly over the past few months TOTA has seen the culmination of their efforts and the hard work of regional tourism stakeholders by being recognized with several prestigious tourism awards worldwide. 

In early 2018, the Thomson Okanagan was named the Responsible Tourism Destination of the Year by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Not long after TOTA received both North America's Responsible Tourism Leader Award and the World’s Responsible Tourism Leader Award, in separate events hosted by the World Travel Awards in Jamaica and Lisbon respectively. 

2019 has started off in the same direction receiving North America’s Responsible Tourism Leader for the second consecutive year and being named in the Top 100 Green Destinations worldwide. 

We, as a tourism industry, need to take a strong leadership role to ensure our destination — which we all call home — is not negatively impacted by its developments and programs. The honour of our Association and our region receiving these important international recognitions show we are collectively on the right track with our focus to advance responsible and sustainable tourism management approaches.

Such positive outcomes do not happen without a great deal of help and leadership. Without the support of Destination Canada, BC Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Destination BC, each community, non-governmental organizations, corporate partners, and our 4,500 industry tourism stakeholders, this recognition would not be possible.

The Region’s many accolades are, to a significant degree, the result of the ambitious strategic program  “Embracing Our Potential.” This 10-year regional tourism strategy has an aim to maximize the benefits of the region’s popularity, while simultaneously protecting its natural, cultural, social, and economic heritage. To date, individual actions under the strategy have included the installation of more than 1,000 electric-car charging stations at key tourism locations; the establishment of Human Resources, Indigenous Tourism and Accessibility Tourism strategies and Specialists; a series of free online webinars to help local tourism stakeholders operate more sustainably; regional rail trail initiatives; and usage of “Big Data” to market and attract visitors at the right time, to the right locations, with the right commitment to the future protection and understanding of the region, and much more.

In late 2017, the Thompson Okanagan Region was officially certified as the first destination in the America’s to have successfully achieved the Biosphere Destination accreditation from the Responsible Tourism Institute. The designation showcases that the Region is both undertaking and committed to the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization.

The Thompson Okanagan attracts more than four million visitors annually generating over $2.2 billion in direct revenue, making tourism the region’s top economic driver. It is TOTA’s aim, through the focus on Responsible Tourism, to ensure that for decades to come, the region will have a healthy and sustainable economic, social, environmental, and cultural future

Glenn Mandziuk is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Region. He can be reached at ceo@totabc.com