The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) has announced that as part of a long-term partnership, it has received a new investment from Destination Canada of $2 million in funding and $950,000 of in-kind support, in an effort to stabilize the Indigenous tourism sector.
The funding ensures ITAC can move forward with their new sales and marketing campaign, entitled The Original Original, promoting Indigenous tourism operators from coast to coast to coast and helping to rebuild the Indigenous tourism industry, which was disproportionately devastated by the pandemic.
Keith Henry, President and CEO of ITAC, said that: “Research from Destination Canada shows that one in three Canadians are interested in Indigenous experiences.”
Henry continued: “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. 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.”
He added that: “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.”
The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, pointed out that: “True reconciliation involves supporting Indigenous communities and businesses. The dedication and efforts of ITAC, backed by the long-standing partnership with Destination Canada and by this renewed support, are an important part of helping Indigenous peoples, communities and businesses build back better.”
Destination Canada’s President and CEO, Marsha Walden said that: “To know Canada, we must understand the contributions of Indigenous peoples to our past, present and future. 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.”
Fully supported by this funding, ITAC launched its summer marketing campaign, The Original Original, on June 21, 2021, National Indigenous Peoples Day.
The campaign aims to educate travellers, modernize their perception of Indigenous experiences and rebuild the Indigenous tourism industry. A key component of The Original Original is a new brand mark to help travellers better identify and book experiences from Indigenous-owned tourism businesses across Canada.
ITAC’s Henry points out that: “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.”
He continues: “Indigenous tourism and The Original Original Mark 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.“
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. At that time, there were an estimated 40,000 Indigenous tourism employees and 1,800 Indigenous-led businesses. Today there are an estimated 15,000 employees and 1,000 businesses left.
Since 2015, Destination Canada and ITAC have exchanged knowledge, expertise and market intelligence as well as facilitated, educated and consulted together on product readiness.
Destination Canada has also assisted ITAC in connecting travel trade to export-ready products through available programs, while cooperating in marketing programs in countries of mutual interest. The organizations plan to continue to build upon their work and collaboration into the future.