TOTA Receives International Biosphere Certification

I attended the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association Summit in November where I learned that the Thompson Okanagan had just been awarded the International Biosphere Certification.  They are the first in the Americas to earn this designation.  If you are like me, you are wondering what this actually means.  Well, this is a certification from the International Responsible Tourism Institute that recognizes that the Thompson Okanagan has met the criteria stipulated from the United Nations and Paris Agreement on climate change.  Ultimately they have met all 137 benchmarks set out to maintain environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

The International Biosphere Certification was established in 1995 at the Conference for sustainable tourism. They incorporated the 17 UN’s sustainable development goals along with the main guidelines from the Paris Climate Summit.  Regions who meet the criteria are dedicated to monitoring and maintaining such areas as labour standards, clean energy and water use, human rights and social justice, gender equality, health and poverty standards and sustainable communities.

Currently there are only 16 regions in the world that hold this Certification with 9 more in the process.  I find it surprising that the Thompson Okanagan is the only region in North America to have undertaken this process.  Having this platform to demonstrate responsible tourism will hopefully not only draw people to our beautiful area but also be a leader in facilitating similar goals for the rest of Canada and North America.

TOTA Biosphere Designation Announcement 2017

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(2017). Retrieved from Biosphere Responsible Tourism:

Top 2018 Tourism Trends to Take Advantage Of

Tourism today is very different than the days of our parents.  We now find that the millennial’s are officially the largest generation in history, beating out the baby boomers. Therefore it stands to reason we are seeing a shift in our travel trends.  Travelers are reallocating their priorities and moving towards wanting that ‘authentic’ experience. We have an emerging trend in food tourism and there is something called ‘bleisure’ where business and leisure trips are being combined.


The authentic experience; not always easy to clearly define or tangibly assess but travelers are navigating towards real experiences that highlight the natural environment, culture and customs of places they visit. Living in the Okanagan, I can think of so many outdoor adventures that really embrace this philosophy.  Responsible tourism also plays a factor as travelers are paying attention to the environmental, economic and social impact they make on the places they visit.


We all love food and food tourism is an evolving industry around the world. Travelers want to see, smell and taste the indigenous food and cuisine they have read about.  Many are even planning their trips around specific festivals and events…I know I love the Spring Okanagan Wine Festival!  Visiting classic food markets or partaking in a farm to table meal will give foreign and local travelers alike that genuine experience.  Another increasingly popular trend is participating in a cooking class; the emphasis on cuisine local to the area they are visiting.

‘Bleisure’, the term penned for people who mix their business and leisure travel.  Finding balance between work and personal life is important and it’s a great way to optimize holiday time and it makes financial sense.   This has become an in demand job perk and many companies are developing travel policies that encourage personal and professional growth during travel trips.  I think of all the business travel we have pass through during our accommodation season; having those few extra days to explore the Okanagan would definitely be a great way to unwind after a business trip.

2018 Year for Synergy

Happy New Year!  2018 is just beginning and like all beginnings, we look to the future with optimism, wonder, and inevitably some uncertainty.  We are also programmed to think that we must try to re-wire ourselves by creating ‘New Year’ resolutions for the coming year.  Hmmm, like most, I question whether this is really productive.

Perhaps going into a New Year can be an opportunity to embrace the strengths that you already have, embolden the possible by embracing not only our strengths but those around us.  Maybe it’s time to really espouse synergy.

When beginning to plan an event, workshop, or conference, it is the synergy of the planning group that ultimately results in a successful event.  Even when you are the ‘main’ planner, it takes those who are implementing the plan to work together, have the same vision, understand the purpose and have their own expertise contributing to the overall success. Take advantage of some of these experts:


The Venue Expert.  It would be wise to recognize that the Venue Coordinator’s strength is how best to utilize the space you’re choosing.  They are able to ensure that your vision fits within the reality of the venue’s parameters. UBCO offers a unique experience of being on campus; it is the venue experts that can help to navigate the venue use with campus partners.




The Catering Expert:  Who knows the menu and capabilities of the catering company better than the Catering Manager and Chef?  When working with a catering company, don’t be afraid to share your budget and dietary desires. Most all chefs’ love the opportunity to create a menu ‘off the menu’, I know ours does! Let their expertise guide you in meal courses, quantities, and how to manage dietary restrictions.



Logistics Expert: Logistics are critical to the success of any event; from arrival, during, and end of the event. Frustration on your guests’ part during these times will be remembered!  If these details aren’t part or your strengths arsenal, find someone who loves planning logistics; the puzzle pieces of movement and timing. Ensure your accommodations facility knows if there will be a large group arriving simultaneously, ensure that your multiple meetings leave time for movement & breaks, reflect and visualize when and where your people will need to be and plan how accordingly.


Our Room Types

With over 500 rooms and 7 room types you will always find something that suites your needs!
Starting at $59 per night!

Facilities Set Ups to your Specification

Derek with the UBCO Facilities Management Dept. has you covered!  They will set up your meeting and special event to your specifications!  From formal round tables for dining to lecture theatre style in the Ballroom!

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UBCO Bookstore has Lots to Offer!

While visiting campus, be sure to check out the UBC Bookstore for all kinds of clothing, gifts, reading material, tech supplies and much more!

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Meet on Campus

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Introducing Malcolm with UBCO IT Services

UBCO IT Services ensures that all of your group’s IT needs are met!

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Meeting Space

Looking for a meeting space only? We have over 50 meeting spaces, from Lecture Theatres to Boardrooms and Foyers to Amphitheaters!

You want me to contribute what?

Author: Wendy Bros, Manager, Guest Accommodation Services, MacEwan University

With educational institutions’ budget constraints many of us who operate out of the Ancillary Departments are starting to feel the pressure to contribute more back to the Universities/Colleges we work for.

When you have limited time and space to operate with, how do we accomplish this?

1) Know your expenses and set your rates:
There is a fine line between blowing yourself out of the market and covering your costs. Doing your homework helps. Do a price comparison of the market in your area; calculate your expenses so that you know when you can offer a discount on volume and when you can’t. Keep in mind that the higher your occupancy the lower your costs are on each night you sell, which brings me to point #2….

2) Booking sites will be your new best friends:
They will increase your sales and occupancy on those unused nights. The higher your occupancy the lower your expenses are per night, driving up your profit margin. Win, win right? This brings me to point #3…..

3) Increase Sales Through Awareness:
How many times when you explain to someone new what you do for a living, they say…”I didn’t know educational institutions rented out rooms.” Most people don’t, however just by listing your rooms on these booking sites, creates awareness to thousands of people who didn’t even know we were an option before. Maybe they won’t book with us today but we will be in their minds the next time their daughter or son has an out of town tournament to attend….which brings me to point #4…..

4) The Non-monetary Contribution We Make to our Institutions:
I never miss an opportunity to remind anyone who will listen to me, the contribution we make by bringing in thousands of people to campus…all potential students, all potential parents of students and all potential students going to live in our residences someday. That is direct marketing at its best.
So when we are faced with that inevitable question, ”How much will your contribution increase next budget year?” these are the tools for success we have behind us to provide our answer with the utmost confidence.

Wendy Brost; Manager, Guest Accommodation Services; MacEwan University Residence
Telephone: 780-633-3623


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