Indigenous Tourism Industry Overlooked In Budget

Pointing to the fact that there was only a one-year investment in Indigenous tourism in the March 23 federal budget, it’s not too surprising that the Indigenous Tourism Industry of Canada (ITAC) is expressing its disappointment, particularly because of the ‘global interest’ and ‘potential’ of the industry.

ITAC’s disappointment is due to the lack of investment into long-term and Indigenous-led initiatives required to secure the industry’s future, as well as support ITAC’s plan to make Canada the global leader in Indigenous tourism by 2030 with an estimated contribution of $6 billion in GDP annually.

Keith Henry, President & CEO of ITAC, said: “The global demand for Indigenous tourism is growing significantly making it one of the fastest growing industries in Canada. 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 launched the 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.

The association has been clear with the federal government in what is needed for strategic investments throughout Canada to reach the Indigenous tourism global leadership 2030 vision, but work has to start now to reach 2030 goals.

Said Henry: “Our vision seemed to be aligned with the government, pre-budget, and that’s what guided our 2023-24 Action Plan. 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 titled “Chapter 4: Advancing Reconciliation and Building a Canada That Works for Everyone” but ITAC notes it does not feel supported in the critical work of Indigenous tourism.

Henry observed: “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.”

And ITAC’s boss added: “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 suggests this funding is not enough and it’s difficult for Indigenous communities to access.

ITAC also points out that 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.

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.

Yet despite yesterday’s (March 23) disappointing news, ITAC says that it will continue to fully 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.