TOTA CEO Glenn Mandziuk presented the draft new Regional Tourism Strategy to dozens of groups – large and small – in more than 30 communities throughout the Thompson Okanagan in recent months. ABOVE, he presents it to the Peachland Chamber of Commerce. RIGHT, joined by TOTA Board Chair Ingrid Jarrett, he presents it to a large group of Similkameen Valley tourism stakeholders during a meeting in Princeton.
TOTA isn't just 'talking the talk' about the need for consultation and partnerships in the tourism industry – it is 'walking the walk'.
Since late February, CEO Glenn Mandziuk has been criss-crossing the Thompson Okanagan, going far and wide to present the details of 'Embracing Our Potential', the draft new 10-year Regional Tourism Strategy developed through 2011 after extensive research and grassroots consultation with tourism stakeholders.
He has been meeting with town councils, Chambers of Commerce, local tourism authorities, and other decision-makers to inform them about the Strategy, hear suggestions for any final changes to the document, and gain support for the plan to grow the region's $1.7-billion tourism industry.
By early June, Mandziuk together with various members of the TOTA Board and staff had already taken the road-show to over 30 communities in all parts of the Thompson Okanagan, presenting a summary of the Tourism Strategy to groups in places like Valemount, Clearwater, Barriere, Cache Creek, Chase, Sun Peaks, Kamloops, Armstrong, Enderby, Vernon, Lake Country, Kelowna, Peachland, Penticton, Naramata, Princeton, Osoyoos and Grand Forks.
At each meeting, Mandziuk has shared the content and insights of the Strategy, which was developed over the past year after extensive review of international, national and provincial tourism strategies and reports, establishment of a project steering committee with representatives from all levels of the tourism industry, and TOTA's hosting of a number of grassroots consultation sessions with tourism stakeholders and community leaders throughout the region. The development of the Strategy was facilitated by Jennifer Houiellebecq, TOTA's Industry Development Specialist and Dr. Roger Carter from TEAM-Tourism.
He says the draft Strategy is being received very positively – and a significant number of town councils, business organizations and tourism groups have already passed resolutions endorsing the document. Based on the feedback gathered over the past four months, TOTA will put the finishing touches on the Tourism Strategy in the coming weeks, and the final version will be released soon – providing a road-map for a more focused and strategic approach to developing and marketing the region to travellers around the world.
In his presentations, Mandziuk notes that tourism is a key economic driver for the Thompson Okanagan, even bigger than mining or forestry. It attracts 3.5 million travellers each year, employs 15,000 people, and generates more than $1.7 billion in economic activity.
The new industry-led Strategy points out that the region's tourism industry faces the challenges of increasing worldwide competition, pronounced seasonality, and insufficient emphasis on telling the Region's rich stories and ensuring that visitors have an engaging experience. There is a need to differentiate the region from its competitors and reposition the Thompson Okanagan as a year-round region of iconic and authentic experiences – destinations offering passion, fulfilment and memorable adventures.
The objectives of the 10-year Regional Tourism Strategy are to maximize the value of tourism to the regional economy; to substantially increase the length of the visitor season; and to maximize the spread of the benefits of tourism around the region. The Strategy aims for three-per-cent real growth in tourism revenue in the Thompson Okanagan each year for the next decade.
In the same way that it has facilitated widespread input into the development of the new Strategy, TOTA will co-ordinate and encourage implementation of many of its planned joint initiatives. Mandziuk notes however, this is the industry's strategy, not TOTA's strategy and it is important that industry leads its implementation. The initiatives are aimed at fostering iconic and authentic Thompson Okanagan travel activities and offering visitors the opportunity to sample local wines and cuisine in unique settings, and immerse themselves in experiences that will give them unique insight into local culture and a new appreciation of the 'stories' that lie behind this region.
To promote the creation of more of these high-quality, memorable experiences, TOTA will work with partner organizations and communities throughout the region on proactive strategies for events, trails, sightseeing and interpretation, visitor services, and Aboriginal cultural tourism. In addition, it will make the most of the ongoing marketing and development programs it offers with Tourism BC, to promote the growth of travel to the Thompson Okanagan through its travel-trade and travel-media contacts. Key markets for Thompson Okanagan tourism include B.C.'s Lower Mainland, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, the Western U.S.A., Germany, the U.K., the Netherlands, Australia, China, South Korea, India and Brazil.
Mandziuk says implementation of the new Strategy will be greatly helped by TOTA's recent adoption of the Canadian Tourism Commission's research-based 'Explorer Quotient®' program, which identifies certain 'traveller types' based on people's values and travel preferences. TOTA and tourism stakeholders throughout the Thompson Okanagan can tailor their visitor experiences to appeal to the traveller types from around the world who are most likely to come to the region.
"The Regional Strategy presents our industry's collective vision and priorities to ensure that tourism grows in a sustainable way for the benefit of communities, businesses and people in every part of the Thompson Okanagan," Mandziuk says.
"The key to the Strategy's success will be how well we work in an integrated way with our many partners throughout the region. We are determined to work closely with communities, tourism stakeholders, local destination marketing organizations, Tourism BC and others to grow our industry for the benefit of all."
Web version of our annual guide for visitors to the region.
Marketing and information for the Travel Trade industry
Market site for a collection of iconic Okanagan experiences