The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association has recently been designated as a Safe Travel Destination by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Wells Gray Park has also seen an uptick in visitors since B.C. went into phase 3 of its restart plan and is now fully open to the public. Pictured, Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Park, a popular tourist attraction. File photo

Thompson-Okanagan recognized as Safe Travel Destination

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) has been designated by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) as a Safe Travel Destination.

Stephanie Molina, executive director for Tourism Wells Gray, said this is no surprise considering the exemplary path B.C. and its residents have taken regarding the COVID-19 response.

“For me, the announcement confirms the serious and successful effort made by our communities and businesses to follow the new health guidelines and effectively flatten the curve,” she said.

“We hope that visitors will enjoy the world-class experience we offer in a respectful way.”

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis, the WTTC, which is a world-wide body representing the travel and tourism sector, came out with safety and hygiene protocols and guidelines for re-opening tourism that have been recognized by more than 1,200 major tourism companies, in more than 80 destinations around the world.

As part of this project, the WTTC also introduced a Safe Travels Stamp, which enables travellers to recognize destination authorities and companies that have implemented and aligned with the WTTC’s Safe Travels Protocols.

Molina said considering the extraordinary circumstances the public has faced since the COVID-19 outbreak, she believes there’s still reason for caution, especially for people looking at travelling for tourism this summer.

She added at the same time, research shows B.C. residents have a pent up desire to travel and visit outdoor wilderness areas like the Thompson-Okanagan where it’s easier to the social distance while experiencing the natural beauty of the area.

“I think the designation could certainly encourage BC residents looking to travel within the province to do so safely and respectfully,” she said.

“And I believe that focusing on and reminding visitors to adhere to the provincial health guidelines will continue to be very important as we make it through this very unusual 2020 tourism season.”

Glenn Mandziuk, president and CEO of TOTA, said in a press release that the guidelines set out in British Columbia through tourism sector partners, and endorsed by Worksafe BC, not only meet but exceed those of the WTTC.

TOTA believes it was important to secure the Safe Travel Destination stamp, Mandziuk noted, as B.C. begins to build back tourism and eventually welcome guests from around the world.

Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, said British Columbians have worked hard to flatten the curve and help make it as safe as possible to travel in the province.

“Congratulations to Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association for this recognition and their work in helping keep visitors, workers, and communities safe during COVID-19,” she said.

Since B.C. has gone into phase three of its restart plan Wells Gray Park has fully re-opened and already there’s been an uptick in visitors since the previous phases.

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