Thompson Okanagan becomes first destination in Americas to receive Biosphere Destination certification

By on November 7, 2017

The view from Mount Kobau shows Spotted Lake and Osoyoos Lake in the distance. The Thompson Okanagan Region has now received international certification as a Biosphere Destination. (© Richard McGuire photo)

The Thompson Okanagan Region has become the first destination in the Americas to receive Biosphere Destination certification.

This prestigious recognition reflects the quality, environmental sustainability and social responsibility of the Thompson Okanagan as a tourism destination, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) said in a news release on Wednesday.

TOTA and its members successfully met 137 benchmarks tracking standards such as affordable, clean energy and water use; human rights and social justice; gender equality; cultural diversity and equality; labour standards; health and poverty standards; and sustainable communities.

The certification is issued by the International Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI), which 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.

Currently there are about 20 international destinations that have received this certification, mostly in Europe.

“This designation allows us to market the region globally as one of the most sustainable and responsible tourist destinations in the world,” said Glenn Mandziuk, president and chief executive officer with TOTA.

The announcement comes just days after federal, provincial and First Nations governments announced their intention to work together to achieve a national park reserve in the South Okanagan.

Mandziuk, who was at the national park announcement, said a national park reserve will be an important boost to tourism throughout the entire Thompson Okanagan Region.

The biosphere destination designation earned praise from several leading supporters of the national park reserve.

“This region has extraordinary beauty, yet the grasslands are extremely vulnerable,” said Doreen Olson, co-ordinator of the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network (SOSNPN).

“We are pleased to see our community acknowledged for its sustainable tourism and congratulate TOTA for bringing global attention to our region. This designation builds on the recent announcement of a renewed establishment process for a national park reserve.”

Bruce Passmore, executive director for Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, B.C. Chapter (CPAWS-BC), also drew connections between the Biosphere Destination certification and the national park reserve.

“A national park reserve is central to a sustainable tourism strategy, which would benefit the local economic, social and cultural values,” said Passmore. “Together these two recent announcements show progress and commitment to preserving the land, wildlife and local cultures for future generations.”

Patricio Azcarate Diaz de Losada, director of the Responsible Tourism Institute, pointed to the importance of tourism and the prestige of certification.

“Tourism is a global connector, contributing to reducing inequality within and between countries, promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, supporting environmental sustainability and creating opportunities for learning and prosperity for all,” he said.

TOTA and its members see more than 3.5 million visitors each year, generating nearly $2 billion in direct economic impact annually, TOTA says.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

 

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