Focus: Breaking Travel News interview: Glenn Mandziuk, chief executive, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Region

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Having been recognised for its unparalleled commitment to sustainability by the World Travel Awards, Breaking Travel News here chats with Glenn Mandziuk, chief executive of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Region, to find out more

Breaking Travel News: Congratulations – the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Region has been honoured with North America’s Responsible Tourism Award at the World Travel Awards. How does it feel to have won?

Glenn Mandziuk: On behalf of myself the board of directors and our entire team at the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association we are extremely honoured that the Thompson Okanagan Region has once again be recognised in North America for our commitment to sustainability.

Never before in the history of tourism have we faced the challenges that have been brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, however, it is only highlighted the need for our industry to work collaboratively on the long-term success and sustainability of the sector.

We appreciate and thank the World Travel Awards for recognising the dedicated work of our association and region for the third year and can assure you that we will be continuing our efforts to move forward and build back better more sustainable tourism industry for the future.

BTN: This is the third successive year the region has taken the prestigious title – what is it that you do that separates you from rivals across North America?

GM: One of the major areas separating our work in tourism sustainability from others in North America is the time and effort that has been devoted to the management and stewardship of the region.

We began this focus in 2009/2010 embarking on a ten-year regional strategy, the first of its kind in North America.

The strategy – entitled ‘Embracing Our Potential – took 18-months to complete and engaged stakeholders in 90 communities and 33 indigenous communities around the region.

Ultimately released in 2012, it outlined a clear path forward for the entire region.

Underpinning every strategic direction in the document was the stakeholders expressed need that sustainability be at the forefront of any actions.

In March this year, after an 18-month review of the original strategy, we released the updated ‘Embracing Our Potential 2.0’ building further on the original document.

Having these strategies as well as a clear mandate from our stakeholders, communities, and governments has ensured that all of our efforts and activities are well defined and that there was and is an unwavering commitment to sustainability.

This has also continued to guide and support our efforts us since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic providing the organisation with a clear direction on the path forward to best support our tourism stakeholders.

BTN: How useful are the World Travel Awards trophies when it comes to promoting the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Region to a global hospitality market?

GM: The World Travel Awards has enabled the Thompson Okanagan Region to have a presence on an international stage that could not have been achieved through traditional marketing and promotional avenues.

Not only has it enabled us to speak directly to markets that would have been unaffordable for us to reach otherwise, but it has also provided the opportunity to tell our story and speak directly to the type of visitor that we want to attract to this region based on our strong values and focus on sustainability.

As we start toward building back tourism and the future, it will be more important than ever that the right visitors are attracted to this region, that they understand their potential impacts both positive and negative, and that they appreciate and respect the important role that sustainability plays throughout the Thompson Okanagan

BTN: Thompson Okanagan Tourism Region itself will be welcome the World Travel Awards North America Gala Ceremony in 2021. What role can events such as this play in helping the region overcome the impact of Covid-19?

GM: While we were very much looking forward to welcoming the World Travel Awards to our region this fall, we are hopeful that we will be together again in 2021, and that having gone through these unprecedented times we will have gained an even greater respect for both the importance and fragility of our world and our industry.

We all anxiously await the day that we can once again experience the varied cultures and history of neighbours worldwide, however, this pause has also enabled us the opportunity to rethink travel and experiences and to work harder to preserve them for futures generations to continue to enjoy.

Events such as the World Travel Awards can assist all regions globally in recognising those that are striving to create a better world of tourism, one that values and awards those making a difference in the industry. 

The awards have the ability to highlight the achievements of our collective measures of our resiliency and of our ability to rethink how we present ourselves as an industry. 

Understanding and appreciating that our success must be measured by more than revenues and number of travellers, but our ability to educate others and preserve all the wonders that make the best travel experiences and ensure their longevity.

More Information

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association represents a diverse area in western Canada, stretching from Christina Lake and the Shuswap to the east, Cache Creek and Princeton to the west, Mount Robson in the north and Osoyoos in the south. 

Find out more on the official website.

Image: Tom Ryan

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