Tourism For Tomorrow Award, TOTA, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

Glenn Mandziuk, CEO and President, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association receives the ‘Tourism For Tomorrow – Destination’ award from the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association WINS at World travel and Tourism Council ‘Tourism For Tomorrow Awards’

April 24, 2018, 1:34 pm Buenos Aries, Argentina

Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award during the World Travel and Tourism Council Summit in Argentina. The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards recognize and celebrate inspirational and world changing initiatives in tourism taking place all over the globe.

“Our Association is honoured to be recognized for our hard work and commitment to Destination Management Practices that strive to ensure the sustainable and responsible development of tourism throughout our Region” indicated TOTA’s CEO Glenn Mandziuk who was in attendance to accept the award. “A huge thank you to all of the community and industry leaders in this region that rise to the challenge each and every day to deliver a quality visitor experience in a sustainable manner. A special thank you to Destination British Columbia and the BC Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture for their strong support of our initiatives.”

“The role of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards is to showcase some of the most outstanding examples of sustainable tourism practice in the world and inspire and motivate our industry to be the change we want to see and experience. The Tourism for Tomorrow 2018 finalists and winners each demonstrate vision, leadership, and a long-term commitment to ensuring our industry focuses on creating better places for people to live in and better places for people visit. This year however we have seen more cross sector collaboration and an acknowledgement that steps can and should be taken to assess tourism impacts more effectively which is an encouraging development,” stated Fiona Jeffery, OBE, Chair, WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.

The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are judged by a panel of independent experts, led by Graham Miller, Executive Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Surrey. Academics, business leaders, NGO and governmental representatives all join forces to whittle down the finalists to just five Winners in five distinct categories. Becoming a Tourism for Tomorrow judge is not a task to be taken lightly – the stringent, three-stage judging process includes a thorough review of all applications, followed by on-site evaluations of the Finalists and their initiative. For more information on the awards please go to: https://www.wttc.org/tourism-for-tomorrow-awards/winners-and-finalists-2018/

 

New Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative Connects Communities and Reclaims Industrial Land

When local governments, with financial support from the Province of British Columbia, stepped forward to purchase the discontinued CN rail corridor between Vernon and Kelowna, they provided an unparalleled opportunity to create a legacy for Thompson Okanagan

communities. The reclaimed railway right of way makes a perfect base for a multi-use trail as railways built their lines following lakes and rivers to attain grades suitable for train traffic. Now, this prime real estate has been reclaimed and it is being prepared for walking and biking traffic. At the same time land is being reclaimed, special attention is being paid to Nesting Birds –active nests will be identified prior to construction, Fish Habitat/Foreshore – work will be completed during the window for fish in sensitive areas, and Small/Medium Mammals –avoid active den sites and timed to hibernating mammals. In addition, special projects associated with the project include Vegetation – Weed and invasive plant management.

Reclaiming railway lines and turning them into trails is not new in the Thompson Okanagan and the Okanagan Rail Trail will become part of a much larger initiate. The Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) Trail and the Columbia & Western Rail Trail is the longest rail trail network in British Columbia extending from Hope to Castlegar. Once a comprehensive railroad system, the decommissioned tracks are now home to an extensive recreational trail providing almost 650 km (400 mi) of connected pathways throughout the region. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail makes up 401 kilometers of the recently completed Great Trail across Canada.

Additional trail projects on decommissioned railway lines that are in progress or are being discussed include from Sicamous to Armstrong, Spences Bridge to Merritt and Merritt to Britton Station. Once the Sicamous to Armstrong section has been completed, there will be an opportunity for people to ride from Sicamous all the way down the Okanagan Valley to Osoyoos. Connecting the Shuswap and Okanagan Valley with a continuous trail that running north south intersecting with the KVR trail which runs primarily east west will create a full network that connects the Okanagan in four directions.

Eventually, rail trails will be connecting the entire southern part of the Thompson Okanagan region.  For example, people could start their journey in Sicamous and end up in Hope or, they could start in Osoyoos and end up in Castlegar, the combinations will be limitless on the BC Rail Trail Network.

 

Photo Credit: Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

Sustainability Enhances the Thompson Okanagan Wine Experience

The International Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI) announced November 1, 2017 that the Thompson Okanagan Region was the first destination in the Americas to earn the prestigious Biosphere Destination certification, recognizing the quality, environmental sustainability and social responsibility of the Thompson Okanagan as a tourism destination. On April 26th, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association was announced as the winner of the 2018 World Travel and Tourism Council’s ‘Tourism For Tomorrow – Destination’ award in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Select wineries in the region have shown a strong commitment to sustainability and there are unique stories about them to be told. The National Geographic Photo Ark is an ambitious project committed to documenting every species in the world’s zoos and other wildlife sanctuaries ­ inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations.  The light-­filled tasting room at Liquidity Wines in Okanagan Falls provides the perfect canvas to display the Photo Ark’s compelling portraits. Organized by the National Geographic Society, the winery’s exhibition will feature more than 50 of these inspiring photographs, and provide visitors of all ages with an opportunity to learn about the project, its mission and conservation efforts. The story of the burrowing owl in British Columbia is a good news story. In 1980, the burrowing owl was declared extirpated (extinct) in the province. Now, however, the population of birds is growing thanks to a very successful captive breeding program established and operated by the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia (BOCS). Oliver’s Burrowing Owl Estate Winery’s proprietors, Jim and Midge Wyse, have been members and active supporters of the BOCS since 1993, and since 2002 their winery has contributed close to a million dollars to the program. Indigenous World Winery in West Kelowna merges the modern culture with Indigenous history. The Indigenous first peoples of the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys located in British Columbia Canada are the Okanagan Syilx people. They have lived on and protected these lands for 1000’s of years. Robert Louie and his wife Bernice are descendants of the Syilx people and are connected to the land and its rich history. Organic/Biodynamic wine-making practices have been an integral part of Summerhill Pyramid Organic Winery in Kelowna since the vineyard was purchased by the Cipes family in 1986. Producing wine organically has a very meaningful benefit to the environment, and some scientists suggest that eating organic foods greatly benefits our health as well. Summerhill is committed to producing 100% organic wine, and has received Demeter Biodynamic certification for their Kelowna vineyard in 2012. Certified organic status was achieved in their cellar in 2007.

 

Adams River Salmon Run

Adams River Sockeye Salmon Run, Scotch Creek, Chase

Salute to the Salmon Festival – October 2018

In October 2018, the Salute to the Salmon Festival will take place to celebrate the return of the Sockeye Salmon in their dominant year. The Sockeye return late September through early November (every year with a dominant run every four years featuring returns in the millions (2014, 2018, 2022,). Sockeye are the second largest fish to spawn in the Adams River (Chinook are the largest). These fish are bright red with green heads. They are seen across the entire river, but prefer to spawn in medium depth, swifter water. The festival is put on by the Adams River Salmon Society at Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park near Chase, BC. Visitors will come from around the world to view this spectacular natural phenomenon which also includes First Nations heritage interpretation at the start of the festival and throughout the daily activities. Festival services available during the Salute to the Sockeye include: onsite food vendors, souvenir sales, artisan wares, cultural and general entertainment, general salmon and environmental interpretation programs. Nearby, the First Nations’ Quaaout Lodge and Talking Rock Resort offers Voyageur Canoe trips over to view the salmon at the mouth of the river, far from the crowds at the park. At select times, diving with the salmon is offered by a nearby dive company. A good base for the festival could also be a houseboat experience with over 100 boats to choose from on the Shuswap Lake’s 1000 kilometers of shoreline. A Canadian Signature Experience “Salmon ‘N Wine Discovery” Tour is offered by a local wine touring company and hotel.  The park in the Shuswap region borders onto the southern edge of the largest inland temperate rainforest in the world and the fall foliage colours of the forest rivals any other in Canada. For a base accommodation, Salmon Arm is the closest major town and nearby are Sicamous, Chase, Vernon, Kamloops and Sun Peaks.

 

Thompson Okanagan Region joins Biosphere Destinations Worldwide November 1, 2017

The International Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI) announced November 1, 2017 that the Thompson Okanagan Region is the first destination in the Americas to earn the prestigious Biosphere Destination certification, recognizing the quality, environmental sustainability and social responsibility of the Thompson Okanagan as a tourism destination. The Thompson Okanagan Region in British Columbia Canada is a major tourism destination attracting over 3.5 million visitors and generating nearly $2 billion in direct economic impact annually. To improve tourism management and maintain the region’s leadership, on May 25, 2017 the President and CEO of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Glenn Mandziuk, signed a Letter of Commitment along with the Responsible Tourism Institute headquartered out of Madrid Spain. This represented another step on the road to obtaining the Biosphere Destination Certificate, which would make Thompson Okanagan one of the 20 destinations in the world to reach this category. Together with CEO Patricio Azcarate Diaz de Losada of the Responsible Tourism Institute, Mandziuk jointly signed the commitment agreement and stated, “We are blessed with an extraordinary tourism region in Canada and it is imperative that we collectively work to ensure the long-term sustainability of our social, environmental, cultural and economic ecosystems. The opportunity to be the first destination in Canada and the United States to achieve such a prestigious international designation is a tremendous honour for the Region and recognizes our commitment to establishing a sustainability charter identified in the Thompson Okanagan 10-year Tourism Strategy entitled “Embracing our Potential”.  “Destination BC supports the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association in their efforts to safeguard and preserve all that is wild and inspirational about their extraordinary region by committing to sustainable tourism. Erika Harms, from the Biosphere USA delegation, recalled “The importance of betting on sustainability as a differentiating and positioning element”, adding that “today the tourist is more demanding, and Biosphere Certification has the unique distinction of prestige that accredits compliance with standards based on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), integrated in Agenda 2030, which implements the guidelines and recommendations of the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20.” For Harms, “tourism must be a global engine, contributing effectively to reducing inequality within and between countries, promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, achieving gender equality, and creating opportunities for learning and prosperity for all. Sustainable tourism is the only form of long-term development, and tourists demand and value it. It is part of the future.”  The Responsible Tourism Institute created and developed the Responsible Tourism System (RTS), recognized under the BIOSPHERE RESPONSIBLE TOURISM seal. This distinction emerged as the answer to establish the criteria for achieving a sustainable behavior in the 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).

Summerland - Kettle Valley Railway

Kettle Valley Steam Railway, Summerland

British Columbia’s Heritage:  Thompson Okanagan’s Trails, Rails and Wild West History

From the railway industry to the tourism industry, British Columbia’s heritage lives on. The Kettle Valley Railway was the most expensive railway to build by the mile in North America. In the Thompson Okanagan region, The Great Trail officially opened August 28, 2017 and is made up of the former railway lines and spans over 401 km, providing access to rail stories and various forms of recreation all suited for exploring our past and present. Experience it all through exploring abandoned railway lines, heritage sites, restored steam locomotives, and more. Kamloops Heritage Railway and the famous 1906 Bill Miner Train Robbery. The Kettle Valley Steam Railway in Summerland operates on the only remaining active section of the KVR. Explore the Great Trail by horse, bike, ATV, and on foot over select sections of the formerly named Trans Canada Trail. The Myra Canyon Trestles in Kelowna are a portion of the original railway, and are one of the most popular parts of the Trail. Bike and hike the trail through vineyards along the  Naramata Bench  There is a wealth of other historical and railway-themed sites to experience in the region.  The Kettle River Museum is located in Midway at ‘Mile 0’ of the KVR Trail. The Greenwood Museum and Heritage Centre provides history about Greenwood and the railway. Grand Forks also provides various railway heritage experiences: the Railway station, Heritage Courthouse, and Boundary Museum highlights Grand Forks’ role in the railway and provide information about the heritage of Grand Forks. These different experiences will allow you to truly experience the railway heritage in the Thompson Okanagan. From Gold Rush roadhouses to historical farm tours, don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about British Columbia’s heritage. Historic Hat Creek near Cache Creek is a restored Gold Rush era roadhouse with original buildings from the pioneer heritage and a First Nations village. Historic O’Keefe Ranch near Vernon provides history about BC’s ranching and farming heritage. For more information about heritage experiences and railway history, visit our Historical Railway and Western Heritage Tour itinerary: https://traveltrade.totabc.org/itinerary/railway-history-tour/

Jack Newton, acclaimed and widely published amateur astronomer and owner of The Observatory B&B in Osoyoos.

Star Gazing from an Open Air Suite in the Thompson Okanagan

From high above Canada’s only true desert, explore the night sky with a 16” Meade LX200 telescope from an observatory built into the Observatory B&B, hosted by Jack Newton, acclaimed and widely published amateur astronomer. While you are in the region, enjoy a guided moonlit stand up paddle boarding experience on Osoyoos Lake, the warmest lake in Canada. The annual Mount Kobau Star Party is hosted nearby for observing the spectacular night sky with telescopes and friends, and is generally held in late July. In nearby Penticton, a roofless suite at God’s Mountain Estate B&B provides the comfort of viewing the brilliant semi-arid night sky from the living room or private tub. The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton allows visitors to view the stars from two different telescopes, providing various perspectives of the night sky. Near Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna, the Okanagan Observatory offers public observing nights every Friday, where you can take in the spectacular night sky by using their 25” telescope. The Merritt Astronomical Society hosts an annual Summer Star Quest Festival in August, where visitors can camp under the stars and observe the incredible night sky above.  Heffley Lake near Sun Peaks offers night stand up paddle boarding tours with glow-in-the-dark paddle boards. The Kamloops Astronomical Society hosts observing nights at Stake Lake Star Park and the abandoned Ranger Station Lookout on Greenstone Mountain near Kamloops is another great place for observing the night skies. Wells Gray Provincial Park provides a unique night sky viewing opportunities during hut-to-hut hiking experiences, in the comfort of a cozy cabin. In winter, Wells Gray Provincial Park offers peak viewing season for moose and wildlife during the day and unobstructed views of the starry skies before cozying up in log cabins for the night. Experience a mountain-top fondue dinner at Sun Peaks followed by a return to the village on an unlit ski run with only a headlamp to guide you. At regular stops during your descent, and in total darkness, the feeling is like skiing amongst the stars. Snowshoe at night along the famous Myra Canyon Trestles, well away from the city but close enough to enjoy the vibrancy of Kelowna after your adventure. In the south Okanagan, snowshoe trails under the twinkling stars and enjoy a chef-prepared, three-course meal around a bonfire with HooDoo Adventures in Penticton. Big White, Silver Star Resort and Apex feature evening activities that provide amazing views of the night sky.

Myra Canyon Trestles

Myra Canyon Trestles

The Great Trail Officially Opens August 28, 2017

From Christina Lake to Princeton, the historic railway route that intersects the Thompson Okanagan region is experiencing modifications and interpretive enhancements that will place the Kettle Valley Rail Trail portion in the category of a must do, world-class traveller experience. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail forms a 401.2 km portion of the Great Trail (formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail) and officially opened August 28, 2017 featuring tunnels and trestles, incredible vistas, and wildlife viewing. The trail takes travellers through the southern part of the province and into the past and around every corner there is another story to learn about the building of the famous railway.

Swiws Spirit Tours at Spotted Lake, Osoyoos

First Nations Remarkable Experiences

Visitors can now experience a local Syilx (Okanagan) guided cultural tour to the famous ecological wonder Spotted Lake near Osoyoos. Swiws Spirit Tours, a First Nations business, now takes visitors down to the lake itself to learn the traditional Syilx history surrounding the lake.  Travel in a voyageur canoe along the shores of Little Shuswap Lake to the Adams River where Sockeye Salmon return to spawn each October, cozy up in a Kekuli for Elder Story Telling learn the legends of the past, attend Kamloopa, the largest Pow Wow in Western Canada, experience how First Nations lived in the desert at the NK’MIP Desert Cultural Centre, make a visit to a First Nations specialty café for fresh bannock and other traditional foods. From world-class golf resorts to formula 1 automotive racing, come and experience what Thompson Okanagan’s First Nations bands have created and are planning in the future for the tourism industry.

Unique Accommodations, Historic Hat Creek Ranch

Unique Accommodations, Historic Hat Creek Ranch

Unique Accommodations in the Thompson Okanagan

When touring the Thompson Okanagan, there are a wide variety of accommodation choices but in addition to the standard resorts, hotels, B&Bs and camping, how about going out of the box and trying something more unique. There is a B&B that is run by an amateur astronomer that features a tour of the night skies through a computer controlled 16 inch telescope housed in a roof-top observatory. Another B&B offers a luxurious roof top room… with no roof! Sleep in the back of a covered wagon at an historic roadhouse, in a tree fort or luxury cruising on a lake featuring 1,000 km of shoreline. And there is that Tuscany-Style Villa where you look out over the vineyards, over the Okanagan river valley… later you show up for your cooking class at the winery restaurants demonstration kitchen.

Long Table Events

Long table events

Long Table Events in the Thompson Okanagan

Popularity of Long Table Culinary events in the Thompson Okanagan has nurtured growth in the number and variety of events now being offered. In orchards, in vineyards, in wineries, fine dining to rustic, there is something for everyone’s taste including a 1.6 mile event consisting of a multi course meal using only the best foods provided by artisan producers from within a 1.6 mile radius of Orofino Winery! Quails’ Gate has joined the list of wineries featuring long table al fresco dining events during the summer and the fall harvest. Enjoy an atmosphere that invites conviviality and an appreciation for the summer bounty of the beautiful Okanagan.

200 Years of Road Trips

200 years of road trips

Route 97 — over 200 years of road trips

Route 97 is one of the longest roads in North America stretching from Weed, California to Watson Lake, Yukon Territories. It winds through the Thompson Okanagan region from Osoyoos to Cache Creek and it was first used by the Fur Brigade starting in 1811. Pick your theme for stops along the way… heritage, golf, spas and resorts or local flavours including wineries, craft breweries, distilleries, cideries, long table dining in vineyards, and farm to table restaurants. At Cache Creek, connect with another Road Trip route… The Gold Rush Trail and follow the paths of the prospectors.

Living WellLiving well, a fun and healthy way to expand your personal horizons

Freakin’ Farmer, Half Corked Marathon, Dirty Feet Kal Park 50, event names that conjure up the question “What the??” From obstacle races in the desert to marathons in the Rockies, the Thompson Okanagan has a wide variety of Living Well activities and events. A desert Oyster festival, a Fest of Ale, a Feast of Fields, and a Rib Fest. How about the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna? Near Vernon, you can ‘Swing like a Girl’ with a former PGA pro and then step into a Cryotherapy treatment with -110°C temperatures at a European-style Health and Wellness Resort.

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

New wineries open in the Thompson Okanagan

More new wineries have opened in the Okanagan in Oliver, Peachland, Lake Country, Kelowna, Penticton and the Shuswap. The Chase Winery which also features their Garden Bistro has opened in Lake Country. Ledlin Family Vineyards has opened on the Naramata Bench, Penticton. Nagging Doubt Winery featuring hand-crafted wines has opened in Kelowna, Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards at the historic Greata Ranch site focuses on traditional method sparkling wine. In Oliver, Pipe’ Dreams, Rust Wines Co. and Checkmate Artisanal Winery have all recently opened.  Play Estate Winery is located on the west side of Skaha Lake, the winery features an iconic modern architectural building housing the wine shop and tasting lounge, indoor/outdoor bistro with function space, and a 14 acre vineyard. In the Shuswap, Marionette Winery and Waterside Winery opened in the last year and a half.

Wonder of Winter

Winter fun

Wonder of Winter, much more than skiing

Walking along the colourfully lit streets of a Bavarian-style Ski Resort village, stopping along the way to enjoy a progressive wine tasting of over 30 wineries at a winter wine festival, dog-friendly Nordic skiing trails, wildlife viewing along snowshoe trails, 100,000 + Wildlights amongst the real wildlife, The Spirit Of Christmas steam engine-powered heritage trains, Hut to Hut Back-country, pond hockey tournaments, ice fishing and more. Snowmobiling is another popular sport in the Thompson Okanagan with many trail systems throughout the North and South Thompson, Shuswap and North Okanagan regions. Fat Biking is a growing sport and designated trail systems are being built alongside ski runs with rentals available in the resorts and major centres. Winter wildlife viewing by snowshoe or nordic skiing based in a cozy log cabin with access to viewing frozen waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Electric Car Touring

EV charging stations

Electric Car Touring through the Thompson Okanagan

There is now a comprehensive network of electric car charging stations in the Thompson Okanagan including the new TESLA Super chargers. From wineries and resorts to golf courses and fruit stands, every stop to top up a vehicle charge allows time for a wine tasting, a round of golf, shopping or just enjoying a beautiful beach. The Route 97 road network provides many choices for touring routes through the wine region, desert and inland temperate rainforest. And speaking of electric, how about renting an electric bicycle and touring a dozen wineries along a wine trail or renting a Segway and cruising around Sun Peaks Resort or the trails in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park. The new Thompson Okanagan ‘Charter of Sustainability’ being completed will encourage even more tourism businesses to consider adding charging stations along with additional green initiatives.