The Thompson Okanagan Region in British Columbia is the first destination in the Americas to earn the International Biosphere Destination certification recognized by UNESCO and United Nations as the only designation to incorporate the United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals on water and other metrics, as well as the main guidelines of the Paris Climate Agreement.
In order to earn the certification, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) and their members successfully met 137 benchmarks that contain sustainability measurements that track 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.
“In May, TOTA signed the Letter of Commitment in our effort to obtain the Biosphere Designation Certificate and today we are one of only 20 destinations globally to have reached this level of tourism excellency and the first in the Americas,” said president and CEO of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Glenn Mandziuk. “This designation allows us to market the region globally as one of the most sustainable and responsible tourist destinations in the world.”
The Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI) created and developed the Responsible Tourism System (RTS), recognized under the Biosphere Destination seal. This distinction emerged as the answer to establish the criteria for achieving a sustainable standard within 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).
“We are pleased to be certifying TOTA with this rare and prestigious designation that accredits compliance with standards based on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” said Patricio Azcarate Diaz de Losada, director of the Responsible Tourism Institute.
TOTA and its members see over 3.5 million visitors per year and generating nearly $2 billion in direct economic impact annually.