The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) and Canadian tourism industry association Destination Canada will partner up in an effort to open up Canada’s rich Indigenous tourism market after an announcement that will see Destination Canada contribute $2 million in funding and another $950,000 of in-kind support for ITAC.
The funding will allow ITAC to move forward with their new sales and marketing campaign – called the Original Original – promoting Indigenous tourism operators in every corner of the country and helping to rebuild the Indigenous tourism industry, which was disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
ITAC CEO Keith Henry said the partnership came at just the right time for the tourism industry, as lagging vaccination rates still make some people nervous about tourism, even if it’s domestic. A second consecutive tough summer for some entrepreneurs might have been too much to handle without the support.
“Research from Destination Canada shows that one in three Canadians are interested in Indigenous experiences,” Henry said. “Destination Canada’s support at this time has allowed us protection from insolvency and will give Indigenous tourism experiences the chance to remain competitive as tourism rebounds,” he added, saying ITAC would continue to push for more funding in order to help prop up the struggling sector. “This partnership is invaluable to the entire Indigenous tourism industry and we are extremely grateful for Destination Canada’s support, recognizing the value of Indigenous tourism to this country. ITAC will continue advocating for additional support in order to ensure the survival of the Indigenous tourism industry and is hopeful other partners will support and recognize the value of Indigenous tourism as well.”
Henry referred to the recent discoveries of unmarked graves around former Residential Schools in Canada, saying Canadians would like to learn more about Indigenous Peoples and that it represents an opportunity for his industry.
“With recent news surrounding Indigenous communities across Canada, it’s more important than ever to elevate Indigenous voices and ensure Indigenous community members are given the opportunity to share their stories and reclaim their culture,” says Henry. “Indigenous tourism provides an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about Indigenous culture, history, customs, food and way of life in an authentic way, directly from Indigenous Peoples.“
Destination Canada CEO Marsha Walden said sharing Indigenous experiences and communities with non-Native people can be a link to true reconciliation and open up Canadians to a rich world they may have never known about.
“To know Canada, we must understand the contributions of Indigenous peoples to our past, present and future,” she said. “As a step towards reconciliation, we can all commit to learning about Indigenous culture and history. Tourism can be a gateway for this shared learning and we are delighted to be expanding our work with ITAC to support the recovery of Indigenous tourism businesses. I encourage all Canadians to add an Indigenous tourism experience to their vacation plans.
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase