The Thompson Okanagan Region in British Columbia Canada is a major tourism destination attracting over 3.5 million visitors and generating nearly $2 billion in direct economic impact annually. To improve tourism management and maintain the region's leadership, the President and CEO of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Glenn Mandziuk, has signed the Letter of Commitment along with the Responsible Tourism Institute headquartered out of Madrid Spain. This represents another step on the road to obtaining the Biosphere Destination Certificate, which could make Thompson Okanagan one of the 20 destinations in the world to reach this category.
Together with CEO Patricio Azcarate Diaz de Losada of the Responsible Tourism Institute, Mandziuk jointly signed the commitment agreement and stated, “we are blessed with an extraordinary tourism region in Canada and it is imperative that we collectively work to ensure the long-term sustainability of our social, environmental, cultural and economic ecosystems. The opportunity to be the first destination in Canada and the United States to achieve such a prestigious international designation will be a tremendous honour for the Region and recognizes our commitment to establishing a sustainability charter identified in the Thompson Okanagan 10-year Tourism Strategy entitled “Embracing our Potential”.
“Destination BC supports the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association in their efforts to safeguard and preserve all that is wild and inspirational about their extraordinary region, by committing to sustainable tourism. This is an admirable commitment to responsibly managing the bounty of our economic, social, and cultural tourism assets to delight future generations of travellers.”, stated Marsha Walden, President & CEO of Destination British Columbia.
Moreover, Erika Harms, from the Biosphere USA delegation, recalled "the importance of betting on sustainability as a differentiating and positioning element", adding that "today the tourist is more demanding, and Biosphere Certification has the unique distinction of prestige that accredits compliance with standards based on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), integrated in Agenda 2030, which implements the guidelines and recommendations of the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20."
For Harms, "tourism must be a global engine, contributing effectively to reducing inequality within and between countries, promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, achieving gender equality, and creating opportunities for learning and prosperity for all. Sustainable tourism is the only form of long-term development, and tourists demand and value it. It is part of the future."
The Responsible Tourism Institute created and developed the Responsible Tourism System (RTS), recognized under the BIOSPHERE RESPONSIBLE TOURISM seal. This distinction emerged as the answer to establish the criteria for achieving a sustainable behavior in the international tourist businesses. Currently the RTI maintains a Memorandum of Understanding with UNESCO, is affiliated to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).
The Biosphere Destination Certification process will be intensively worked on by TOTA and its industry and institutional partners over the next 6 months with annual performance measures established to maintain the designation if achieved for the long term.