When the federal government committed to setting aside nearly $25 million to help support the flagging Indigenous tourism market last month, it was unclear how that funding might end up in the hands of local tourism entrepreneurs.
Today, there’s a little more clarity.
“For the most part, that funding will be used for grants and for loan programs,” said Kahnawake Tourism development agent Kimberly Cross. “We’re hoping that a number of operators in Kahnawake will respond to that, whether the grants come from the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) or funnelled down through provincial Indigenous tourism grants.”
Cross sees it as her job to act as a tour guide of sorts for local tourism businesses – to help them negotiate the often-byzantine maze of government paperwork and qualifying for grants.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Maybe some operators don’t quite have the knowledge base to understand some of this stuff, but it’s my job to help them understand it and apply for funding that they qualify for. I’ll discuss it with our tourism businesses and help them figure out what they qualify for and how they can apply for it.”
Cross said the process can be complicated.
“It varies a lot, and we also have to consider what the needs are and how we can help our entrepreneurs actually need,” she added.
In the federal budget, unveiled earlier this month, the government will commit $4.8 million over two years, starting in 2022-23, to ITAC to support its national operations. In addition, $20 million will be committed over the next two years to build a new Indigenous Tourism Fund to help the Indigenous tourism industry recover from the pandemic and position itself for long-term, sustainable growth. In addition, the government proposed a plan, to forgive up to 50 percent of the COVID-Indigenous Business Initiative loans that supported businesses in need during the pandemic. This action will help ensure that Indigenous-owned businesses are positioned for long-term success.
ITAC CEP Keith Henry was pleased with the funding – after calling on the government earlier this year to step in and help.
“ITAC appreciates the federal government’s support for the Indigenous tourism industry as it tries to recover from COVID-19,” Henry said. “We acknowledge the hardships and resilience our communities have faced these past two years and know there is still a long road ahead, but rest assured that ITAC will work diligently with its partners to execute a meaningful and vigilant recovery plan.”
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase