Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association wins World’s Responsible Tourism Award

Prestigious prize bestowed at World Travel Awards on Dec. 1 in Portugal

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) was declared winner of the prestigious World’s Responsible Tourism Award at the 25th annual World Travel Awards (WTA), held on Dec. 1 in Lisbon, Portugal.

“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 activities,” said Glenn Mandziuk, the president and CEO of TOTA. “The honour of our association and our region receiving this important international recognition shows we are on the right track with our collective focus on responsible and sustainable tourism.”

TOTA is a not-for-profit society which represents business and community tourism interests throughout the region. The award was accepted by Glenn Mandziuk; Frank Antoine, TOTA Chairman of the Board; and Ellen Walker-Matthews, TOTA VP Destination & Industry Development. The WTA Grand Final Gala Ceremony 2018 took place at Lisbon’s historic Pátio da Galé.

Since its establishment 25 years ago, WTA has become the international benchmark for recognizing excellence in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Voting is conducted online by tourism industry professionals around the world.

Related: Okanagan tourists undetered by smoke

This most recent honour follows TOTA winning the WTA North America’s Responsible Tourism Award in September and the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Award in April, in addition to numerous other commendations this year.

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

In late 2017, the Thompson Okanagan Region officially achieved Biosphere Certified Destination accreditation from the Responsible Tourism Institute, in partnership with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and the UN World Tourism Organization. The designation showcases that the Region is both undertaking and committed to the 17 sustainability 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.

The region’s many accolades are, to a significant degree, the result of the Embracing Our Potential strategic program, which launched in 2012. 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.

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association can be found on Twitter and Face, as well as on their own website at totabc.org. For more information about the World Travel Awards, you can visit their website at worldtravelawards.com.

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