The Canadian government has made a commitment of $24.8M over two years to Indigenous Tourism in Budget 2022.
This funding will support the creation of a new Indigenous Tourism Fund and provide $4.8M to support the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada's (ITAC) operations, which will help the Indigenous tourism industry rebuild and recover from the pandemic.
Indigenous tourism in Canada continues to face its most challenging times, says ITAC, which remains committed to preserving the legacies created by its partners prior to the pandemic and ensuring the industry’s long-term sustainability.
Although ITAC’s three-year $65M strategic recovery plan, Building Back Better: Strategic Recovery of Indigenous Tourism in Canada 2022-2025, was not prioritized in the trimmed down Budget 2022, similar to many other tourism initiatives across this country, ITAC says it will continue to work with government and its funding partners to advocate for Indigenous-led solutions for the recovery of the Indigenous tourism industry.
Reducing financial stress
ITAC says Budget 2022 shows significant support towards the Indigenous tourism industry in Canada.
The budget also outlines strong measures to reduce financial stress for Indigenous tour operators.
- A proposed plan to provide $4.8 million over two years, starting in 2022-23, to ITAC to support its national operations, which will continue to strive for a thriving Indigenous tourism economy sharing authentic, memorable and enriching experiences.
- A proposed plan to provide $20 million over two years, starting in 2022-23, in support of a new Indigenous Tourism Fund to help the Indigenous tourism industry recover from the pandemic and position itself for long-term, sustainable growth.
- A proposed plan to forgive up to 50 per cent 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 appreciates the federal government’s support for the Indigenous tourism industry as it tries to recover from COVID-19,” said Keith Henry, president and CEO of ITAC. “We are grateful to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, Randy Boissonnault, for the ongoing collaboration to develop systems and targeted solutions for the Indigenous tourism industry over the past year. 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.”
The Building Back Better plan is still working towards returning to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2025, but without the necessary funds to support the plan it will be extremely challenging, ITAC says.
The association remains steadfast in its approach to advocate for the future of Indigenous tourism as it set out to do in 2015 and will continue to explore other opportunities and funding initiatives outlined in the 304-page document, Budget 2022.
“We are looking forward to seeing what the Indigenous Tourism Fund will be comprised of. We will work very closely with the Minister’s team to make sure Indigenous-led solutions are prioritized and that tangible and meaningful solutions are put forward to the benefits of our Indigenous entrepreneurs,” said Henry. “There is still so much uncertainty and a lot left at stake but Budget 2022 does show some real wins for our sector. We will continue to support the recovery of our industry as much as we can, with what we have.“
A return to rapid growth
ITAC helps Indigenous communities fulfill their vision for tourism.
Indigenous tourism can take different shapes. It could be an Indigenous person sharing their food or culture, or a business leading guided experiences or tours.
It could be an experience that involves supporting an Indigenous-owned businesses.
Prior to March 2020, Indigenous tourism was outpacing all other tourism sectors in Canada for growth, bringing an estimated $1.9 billion in revenue to Canada’s gross domestic product, ITAC reports.
Then, there were an estimated 40,000 Indigenous tourism employees and 1,800 Indigenous-led businesses.
The Indigenous tourism industry, however, was disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, there is an estimated 15,000 employees and 1,000 businesses left, ITAC says.
Keith Henry, ITAC president and CEO, will host a webinar on his personal Facebook Live page on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. PT / 12:00 p.m. ET.