ITAC’s Henry talks ‘reconciliation in action’ at 2023 TIAC Congress

Indigenous tourism has become a fundamental part of Canada’s total tourism experience, but it will take a concerted effort – and commitment from partners – for it to reach its full potential, according to Keith Henry, president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC).

Keith addressed delegates attending the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s 2023 Tourism Congress in Ottawa last week during a special “fast track” session, where he talked about Indigenous tourism’s 2030 industry targets, as well as opportunities to work with the Indigenous tourism community across Canada and support Indigenous economic reconciliation, as recommended by item #92 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

With Indigenous tourism representing only two percent of the total tourism industry, there is a lot of room for growth.

The 2030 targets include creating 2,700 Indigenous owned and operated tourism businesses (up from 1,900 in 2019); 60,000 jobs (up from 39,000 in 2019) and $6 billion in contributions to GDP (up from $1.9B in 2019).

Keith also told the group that it will take a significant effort to reach those goals, especially with competition from other sectors. Government funding has made a difference, but Indigenous tourism needs a sustainable and predictable funding model to achieve its vision of “a thriving Indigenous tourism economy sharing authentic, memorable and enriching experiences” and help make Canada the global leader in Indigenous tourism by 2030.

One way to achieve this is through the Indigenous Tourism Destination Fund (ITDF).

The ITDF is expected to be a game changer for Indigenous tourism in Canada — both as a way to invest in the continued growth of the industry and as a model for the development of Indigenous tourism.

The new funding model invites the tourism industry to participate and support progress towards realizing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action #92 – and ITAC’s 2030 targets – by providing an optional fee to guests to support the fund, similar to the destination marketing fees hotels charge.

Early adopters of the ITDF include Rocky Mountaineer, Airbnb, WestJet and Coast to Coast Experiences, as well as seven Indigenous tourism businesses.

Reconciliation and the development of Indigenous tourism go hand-in-hand, with Henry reminding delegates that reconciliation is a journey, before he ended his remarks with a quote from Murray Sinclair, a former member of the Canadian Senate and First Nations lawyer who served as chairman of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 2009 to 2015:

“Achieving reconciliation is like climbing a mountain — we must proceed a step at a time.”

Story by Debra Ward