Tourism Kelowna embraces new sustainability initiative

Tourism Kelowna will be the first organization in the Thompson-Okanagan region to initiate a new industry sustainability project. The project made by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA), the Biosphere Certification Adhesion Program will be launched in Kelowna first, followed by Kamloops and other places across the region. Based on TOTA’s ‘Drive for Sustainability’ plan, the project will bring together community stakeholders to work together and execute long-term stewardship of local tourism while offering visitors an ‘authentic, remarkable experience’.

Five years ago, TOTA had decided to expand the tourism business window from traditionally 45 days in the summer to 200 days across spring, summer and fall. To attain the result, TOTA chose to promote tourism as an environment sustainable industry that protects local environment, social, cultural and economic systems. TOTA was declared one of only 20 tourist destinations in the world to receive a biosphere destination certificate last year. The certification was given by the Responsible Tourism Institute for having satisfied the 137 certification criteria, standard in line with the 17 United Nations declared sustainable development goals and the Paris agreement on global climate change. Myra Canyon Ranch and Adventure Park were among the first stakeholders who signed the project. Kathrin Von Andrian, owner of Myra Canyon Ranch, consider this as a great chance to be a part of something that is so significant to the future and has the potential to further connect the region.

“The visitor economy is vital to economic development in our region but with that comes recognition of the need for responsible tourism development,” said Lisanne Ballantyne, President and CEO, Tourism Kelowna. Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of TOTA, believes that the 200-day seasonal goal offers benefits to tourism industry in retaining employees and borrowing money from banks for improvements. “We are already seeing benefits of that strategy. We have gone from 45 days to 110 days where 80 per cent of the tourism revenue is generated. We are starting to see significant tourism activity across the region in September which traditionally had been a very slow month. We want to see a strong six to eight month tourism season across the region. We’ve been thinking and talking about this for awhile but it was magic to our ears to hear others talking about these same issues at the conference. We have to address issues like carbon footprint and climate change, we need to understand it and say now this is our new reality, and always reflect that in our decision-making process,” he said. He is confident that downtown Kelowna centre which is expected to open July will bring in large number of tourists.