By Lyonel Doherty
Glenn Mandziuk doesn’t want to sell his soul for the sake of tourism, but he’s willing to do things differently to put Oliver on the map.
In fact, the chief executive officer of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) has already done that by helping the association win the world’s Tourism for Tomorrow award this year.
Mandziuk recently addressed Oliver Town council asking it to support the Thompson Okanagan as a “biosphere-certified” destination. He noted that TOTA is the first in all the Americas to achieve this high standard certification.
Mandziuk said TOTA began developing a regional tourism strategy eight years ago, noting the fact 80 per cent of revenue traditionally generated in 45 days of the year really held back the industry.
“We are looking at doing things differently because we were just developing tourism for the sake of tourism,” Mandziuk said.
He stated they’ve stretched those 45 days to 110, but the goal is to expand that to 200.
“We’re not just summer sun and fun.”
Mandziuk said part of the strategy is advancing rail/trail partnerships with indigenous communities for visitors who want to experience a different culture.
“We’re attracting visitors who want to experience us in a respectful way.”
But Mandziuk admitted they don’t want to become another Barcelona, a place where people shy away from because there are too many visitors.
He pointed out that TOTA is working on a “landmark project” on how they can expect visitors to enjoy this regional destination.
He also noted that more than 200 businesses have signed up to be biosphere-committed companies.
“We have an opportunity to stand for something really important.”
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said people who live here need to be educated on the regional tourism opportunities that exist. For example, people in Kelowna are not experiencing Oliver but they will travel east and west for other experiences, he said.
The mayor noted that a couple of thousand people can be “real champions” by exploring their own region.