Building a Sustainable and Responsible Tourism Industry.
The Thompson Okanagan’s 10-Year Regional Tourism Strategy, “Embracing Our Potential” was completed in 2012 and officially endorsed by our 90 Communities and Hamlets together with the 33 Indigenous Communities located in the Thompson Okanagan Region. This strategy, the first of its kind in North America, has been the roadmap for regional tourism development since that time.
From the outset of the project, which saw numerous workshops and industry input sessions take place throughout the region, there was overwhelming feedback on the importance of tourism development that was both sustainable and thoughtful. As a result of this work with communities, underpinning the entire strategy is a commitment to responsible and sustainable tourism with a focus on the 3 pillars of responsibility: Environmental, Economic and Social. As a first step in the implementation of the strategy, TOTA aligned with Green Step Solutions, through a Memorandum of Understanding committing the organizations to work in a coordinated effort towards assisting our stakeholders understanding and implementing green practices.
In 2016, we initiated a worldwide search for an organization that could assist us in pursuing certification as a Sustainable Tourism Destination. Through a committee selection process, TOTA signed an agreement with the Responsible Tourism Institute (Spain) and embarked on the process of Regional Sustainable Tourism Certification.
What is Biosphere?
Biosphere is a Responsible Tourism System (RTS) certified by the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI), an international accreditation body affiliated with the World Tourism Organization (WTO), and is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).
The system is aligned with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the Paris COP21 Accord to fight Climate Change. It is also aligned with the requisites and recommendations for certification of the World Charter on Sustainable Tourism +20.
The system offers a holistic approach to sustainability in which all distinctions associated with different aspects of sustainability (corporate social responsibility, service quality, environmental management, etc.) are integrated.
What does it mean to be a Biosphere Certified Destination?
On November 2, 2017, the Thompson Okanagan Region was officially certified as the first destination in the Americas to have successfully achieved the Biosphere Tourism Destination Certification from the Responsible Tourism Institute.
During the certification process, the Thompson Okanagan had to provide answers and evidence for 137 questions covering the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). This was followed by an onsite audit to review our evidence and complete a documentation and ongoing action plan for certification.
Certification is just the beginning, and next steps include the implementation of an annual action plan as provided through the audit to ensure the region continues to move forward in its ongoing effort to remain and continue to grow as a sustainable tourism destination.
how can you be involved?
With the Thompson Okanagan Region now certified as a Sustainable Tourism Destination through Biosphere, your tourism organization has the opportunity to also become part of the Biosphere Community.
Our goal is to establish collaborative synergies within our tourism industry by inviting stakeholders to adopt a commitment to sustainability through the Biosphere Adhesion or the Community Support program.