The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) says it is frustrated with the lack of long-term investment into “one of Canada’s fastest growing industries.”
Responding to the federal government’s 2023 budget, which was tabled Tuesday (March 28), ITAC noted Ottawa’s lack of investment into Indigenous tourism, which amounted to just one year, despite the global interest and potential of the industry.
ITAC is “disappointed” in the lack of investment into the long-term and Indigenous-led initiatives required to secure the industry’s future, as well as support ITAC’s plan to make Canada a global leader in Indigenous tourism by 2030 with an estimated contribution of $6 billion in GDP annually.
“The global demand for Indigenous tourism is growing significantly making it one of the fastest growing industries in Canada,” said Keith Henry, president & CEO of ITAC. “To reach this ambitious goal we need to have stable, long-term funding and we need to support Indigenous-led solutions. We’re extremely disappointed to once again be overlooked by our government."
ITAC helps Indigenous communities fulfill their vision for tourism.
Indigenous tourism can take different shapes and forms. It could be an Indigenous person sharing their food or culture, or a business leading guided experiences or tours.
It could also be an experience that involves supporting an Indigenous-owned businesses.
Prior to March 2020, (before the pandemic), Indigenous tourism was outpacing all other tourism sectors in Canada for growth, ITAC says
At that time, there were an estimated 40,000 Indigenous tourism employees and 1,800 Indigenous-led businesses.
Missing the potential
ITAC launched its 2023-24 Action Plan earlier this month, outlining steps to rebuild the Indigenous tourism industry to peak 2019 levels of $1.9 billion contribution to Canada’s GDP and 39,000 employed in the industry in the immediate future.
In it is also a plan for Canada and ITAC to become a global leader in Indigenous tourism in 2030.
ITAC has been clear with Ottawa in what is needed for investments throughout Canada to reach the Indigenous tourism global leadership 2030 vision, but work has to start now to reach 2030 goals.
“Our vision seemed to be aligned with the government, pre-budget, and that’s what guided our 2023-24 Action Plan,” stated Henry. “We believed there was strong support from the federal government based on our positive meetings to date. ITAC has been crystal clear in what is needed to ensure Canada is the world leader in Indigenous tourism, but work must start now to reach 2030 targets.”
ITAC recently hosted the International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC) held in Winnipeg, March 8-10.
The event brought in 1,100 global delegates to discuss and shares strategies for Indigenous tourism growth on a global scale.
The federal budget included a section in the budget titled “Chapter 4: Advancing Reconciliation and Building a Canada That Works for Everyone” but ITAC notes that it does not feel supported in the critical work of Indigenous tourism.
“Our association can't understand how the federal budget can include a section titled ‘Chapter 4: Advancing Reconciliation and Building a Canada That Works for Everyone’ and not support the critical work of Indigenous tourism businesses,” said Henry. “Tourism is reconciliation in action and in the budget Indigenous tourism was seemingly invisible.”
The budget includes funding earmarked for festivals and events including Indigenous Cultural Celebrations, but ITAC says this funding is not enough and that it’s “difficult for Indigenous communities to access.”
“Indigenous tourism is a strong example of reconciliation in action as it brings economic stability, education and job creation to communities that are often overlooked by mainstream governments,” ITAC said it a statement. “It also provides a chance for Indigenous Peoples to share their history from their voice, to be proud of Indigenous culture and revitalize dancing, singing, crafting and other things that keep Indigenous cultures alive.”
ITAC says it will support its members and provincial-territorial partners working towards its 2022-25 Strategic Recovery Plan, Building Back Better and continue working towards the 2023-24 Action Plan.
ITAC also has all the right resources for travel agents looking to support the sector. The association can provide guidance, advice and help agents build itineraries for clients.
Travel industry professionals are encouraged to visit www.destinationIndigenous.ca for more information.