The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association won the World’s Responsible Tourism Award at the 25th annual World Travel Awards, which were held this past Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal.
The award was accepted by TOTA president and CEO Glenn Mandziuk, TOTA board chair Frank Antoine and TOTA vice-president of destination and industry development Ellen Walker-Matthews.
“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,” Mandziuk said. “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.”
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.
This past weekend’s award follows TOTA winning the WTA’s 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.
Tourism Kamloops is a member of the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association. Board members from the Kamloops area include Antoine from Quaaout Lodge near Chase, Bryan Pilbeam, vice-president and general manager of Hotel 540, Erik Fisher, general manager of Monte Creek Ranch Winery and Glenn Grant, general manager of the B.C. Wildlife Park.
“Such positive outcomes do not happen without a great deal of help and leadership,” Mandziuk said. “Without the support of Destination Canada, B.C. 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.”
Mandziuk said the accolades are linked to Embracing Our Potential, a 10-year regional tourism strategy launched in 2012 that aims 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, a series of free online webinars to help local tourism personnel operate more sustainably, regional rail trail initiatives and usage of data to market and attract visitors.
In late 2017, the Thompson-Okanagan region 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 acknowledges the region is both undertaking and committed to the 17 sustainability development goals set out by the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization.
The Thompson-Okanagan attracts more than four-million visitors annually, generating in excess of $2.2 billion in direct revenue, making tourism the region’s top economic driver.