2023 Indigenous Tourism Awards Finalists Announced

The finalists for the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada’s (ITAC) annual Indigenous Tourism Awards and Indigenous Tourism Manitoba’s (ITM) Tourism Awards have been announced.

The awards, celebrating excellence in Indigenous tourism, honour exceptional Indigenous leaders and Indigenous tourism experiences and are divided into two categories: ITAC’s national awards, available to Indigenous owned tourism businesses across Canada; and the Indigenous Tourism Manitoba awards, available to Manitoba-based nominees. Nominee businesses must be majority Indigenous owned/controlled and located within Canada.

Both the national and provincial awards — sponsored by WestJet — will be presented during the Gala celebration at the 10th annual International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC) on Thursday, March 9, 2023, hosted in Treaty 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Red River Métis (Winnipeg, Manitoba).

ITAC and ITM will be recognizing Indigenous-owned tourism associations, businesses, and individuals who have demonstrated exceptional work in leadership, partnership, development and marketing, and business ethics. The cross-section of finalists reflects the exemplary work done by Indigenous operators who have committed to creating world-class tourism experiences for visitors from Canada and around the world.

Keith Henry, CEO and President of ITAC, said: “I’m incredibly proud to see so many nominations representing such an impressive and diverse group of Indigenous operators from coast to coast to coast. Along with ITM, we will be celebrating the outstanding achievements of some remarkable Indigenous entrepreneurs on March 9.”

Holly Courchene, CEO of Indigenous Tourism Manitoba, said: “Manitoba, with its diverse landscapes and Indigenous cultures has many possibilities to develop unique tourism experiences to share with our visitors. This year’s nominees and finalists are outstanding examples of more Indigenous tourism experiences to come.”

This year, more than 60 nominations were received, showcasing first-rate Indigenous tourism experiences, businesses and leaders. Each year, nominees must be majority Indigenous owned/controlled and provide tourism experiences or tourism related services.

The finalists for each category include:

National Awards

Business Innovation Award

Honours operators who have demonstrated the ability to pivot and adapt to the new environment COVID-19 brought with it and new business that opened since 2020 that have been able to garner success during uncertain times in the tourism industry.

  • Thrive Tours
  • Dakota Dunes Resort
  • Pei Pei Chei Ow

Female Entrepreneur Award

Recognizes strong, empowered Indigenous female entrepreneurs who demonstrate a commitment to uplifting other female entrepreneurs in their industry while embodying leadership within their business and/or community.

  • Josée Leblanc – Atikuss Canada
  • Inez Cook – Salmon n’ Bannock
  • Matricia Bauer – Warrior Women

Leading the Way in Sustainability Award

Operators are not only committed to fostering a regenerative future for their business and community but have made significant and measurable impacts in the areas of social sustainability, cultural sustainability and/or environmental sustainability.

  • Tundra North Tours
  • Métis Crossing
  • Holmalco Tours

The Original Original Award for Exceptional Industry Leadership

Recognizes a business or organization leading the way through the demonstration of excellence in all aspects of its business, such as marketing campaigns, Trip Advisor reviews, revenues generated, low staff turnover and repeat customers.

  • Wikwemikong Tourism – Luke Wassegijig
  • Wapusk Adventures – David Daley
  • Feast Cafe Bistro – Christa Bruneau-Guenther

Provincial/Territorial Association of the Year Award

Recognizes a Provincial or Territorial Association that demonstrates excellence in all aspects of ITAC’s four Pillars of Leadership, Partnership, Development & Marketing to build a resilient Indigenous tourism industry.

  • Indigenous Tourism Alberta
  • Tourisme Autochtone Québec / Quebec Indigenous Tourism
  • Indigenous Tourism Association of New Brunswick

Provincial Awards

New Operator or Business that Launched a New Experience Award

Recognizes a phoenix rising through the ashes during one the most difficult times in recent history. This honour is awarded to a new business or experience that opened between 2020 – 2022.

  • Boreal Workshop – Tanis Thomas
  • Prairie Berry – Jen Turenne
  • Dene Routes – Florence Hamilton

Cultural Experience Award

Recognizes the outstanding delivery of cultural knowledge and guest experiences at Indigenous Cultural Centres, Museums, Galleries, Retail Stores, Food Establishments, Entertainments Centres and Spa/Retreats, Outdoor Adventure, Wildlife Viewing, and Outdoor Guided Tours in Manitoba.

  • Borealis Beading
  • Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre
  • Whiteshell Petroforms

Outstanding Staff Person Award

Recognizes a youth ambassador or Elder for their extraordinary dedication and exceptional performance while bringing passion for their culture and history and commitment to achieving excellence for the business in Manitoba.

  • Dennis Daniels – Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre Inc.
  • Jade Richards – Kikiwak Inn
  • Wyatt Daley – Wapsuk Adventures

The Leading the Way in Business Development Award

Recognizes a community-based business thriving in tourism business development at an inspiring rate and demonstrates the implementation of proper protocol, from community consultation to community buy-in.

  • Opaskwayak Cree Nation
  • Fisher River Economic Development Corporation
  • Big Sand Lake Lodge

Photo courtesy — Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC)