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Tourism partnership crosses Canada-US border

A cross-border tourism partnership launched an eyecatching website today giving visitors to North Central Washington state and British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan region a rich new source of information and online links to learn about and explore travel destinations up and down the scenic Highway 97 corridor.

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) and the North Central Washington Economic Development District (NCWEDD) have teamed up in a joint transborder project to present a combination of new and existing tourism resources on the new Discover Route 97 website – route97.net.

The goal of the site, with more than 30 informative webpages, is to make visitors aware of the amazing destinations along Highway 97, give them direct links to key organizations, places, and tourism resources in the area, and to promote travel on this important Canada-United States corridor.

TOTA president and chief executive officer Glenn Mandziuk says the new website demonstrates the benefits of two tourism regions working together to help expand visitor stays in both areas.

"This is exactly the kind of initiative we envisioned in 2012 when TOTA and NCWEDD pledged to work together on ways to grow our tourism industries," Mandziuk said.

"By giving visitors to North Central Washington and the Thompson Okanagan a website full of information about the exciting destinations in both regions, we can help to draw visitors up and down Highway 97 for longer trips. This helps travellers and it helps our tourism industry stakeholders on both sides of the border."

NCWEDD administrator Jennifer Korfiatis says this project recognizes that tourists don’t stop at the border. "We’re excited about this project. We believe that by working together, both TOTA and NCWEDD can showcase our individual regions in a collective way and present compelling experiences that will help visitors to explore our regions."

Korfiatis and Mandziuk point out that this cross-border project has the support of elected officials from the cities, counties, and First Nations alliances in the regions on both sides of the border.

The Discover Route 97 website project manager, TOTA community development specialist Simone Carlysle-Smith, notes that the project was carried out by an experienced team of professionals who have created leading-edge tourism branding and marketing for areas in the Thompson Okanagan over the past two years. They include Roger Handling (Terra Firma Digital Arts), Teresa Nightingale (Attention Web & Graphic Design), and Kim Cameron (tourism marketing writer).

"We are incorporating world-class strategic tourism marketing elements to this project to make the new website as informative and useful for the visitor as possible," Carlysle-Smith said. "It is being optimized for effective web searching and will be easily and attractively viewable on all mobile devices."

The website introduction notes: "Route 97 is the ribbon of highway that binds each community with the next, stretching from the Cascade foothills of the Wenatchee National Forest through Washington’s Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan Counties and crossing the Canadian border into British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan Region, then onward to Alaska."

It includes lively and informative text, images and links about communities and destinations in areas such as Wenatchee National Forest, Lake Chelan, Leavenworth, the Channeled Scablands, Moses Coulee, the Omak Stampede, historic Winthrop, the Methow Valley, Osoyoos Lake, the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, Oliver wine country, Summerland, Kelowna, Kalamalka Lake, Vernon’s Sparkling Hill and Predator Ridge Resorts, Salmon Arm, and Gold Country near Cache Creek.

The website displays an interactive highlights map and notes 10 "signature experiences" noting outstanding destinations and activities on both sides of the border.

It also includes special sections on wineries, agricultural tourism, events  and festivals, entertainment, and arts and culture. There is a special page with information about crossing the Canada-U.S. border, as well as a service directory with links to listings of RV locations, accommodations, electric car charging stations, and visitor information centres.

Launch of the new Discover Route 97 website coincides with start-up of a new ground transportation shuttle service in the South Okanagan. The South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, along with partners in the South and Central Okanagan including TOTA and Air Canada, have announced the new daily scheduled shuttle service from Osoyoos to Kelowna International Airport (YLW) with 10 inter-community stops along the way. The service begins Mon., Aug. 11 and offers four round trips per day.

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association  is a non-profit society governed by an elected board of directors who represent business and community tourism interests throughout the region. It is an industry-led organization that represents and supports all business and community tourism interests in the region, while also helping to implement provincial tourism policies.

The North Central Washington Economic Development District  is a federally designated economic development district for the region covering Okanogan, Douglas, and Chelan counties and the Colville Confederate Tribes. It is responsible for regional economic development strategy and planning and collaborates with various private and public agencies to accomplish this goal.

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