WestJet Continues Its Support For Indigenous Tourism

During the recent National Indigenous Tourism Conference in Calgary, a review of WestJet efforts to support Indigenous tourism companies confirmed that the carrier is staying the course with funding for the sector.

The airline allocated a budget to boost the Canadian Indigenous tourism sector in 2019, before changing that to a support fund for select Indigenous firms that needed help during the pandemic.

Repping the airline at the just-finished conference was Angela Avery, the EVP, general counsel & corporate secretary for WestJet. She told assembled delegates that WestJet and the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada had blazed trails by signing an MOU that was “first of its kind,” and that this partnership was designed to benefit both signers.

The conference took place March 8-10 in Calgary, at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino and Press Today’s western editor, Ted Davis was on hand to cover the event.

Avery described how the airline had originally made a commitment to provide $100,000 over three years to help build Indigenous tourism across Canada, and to showcase those experiences to global audiences. It was, for example, to be used for enhancing the export readiness of Indigenous tourism businesses as they prepared for international visitors.

But that was in November 2019, before the pandemic put a stranglehold on leisure travel, eliminating the need to spend those funds on international marketing efforts.

The support strategy was paused for 2020, but by 2021 WestJet had pivoted to reallocate the funds to help some Indigenous tourism firms make it through the pandemic. The companies were chosen by ITAC for their ability to adapt to the challenging business environment.

Nine companies from across Canada were selected for financial assistance, through consultation with the ITAC. Each of the companies received $10,000 for use to counter the financial impacts of Covid-19.

“We are pleased to be able to support these Indigenous businesses as they work their way to recovery,” said Avery.

With the travel industry starting to emerge from the pandemic, the terms of the original MOU have been reinstated and will operate through to 2023. “We hope to sign another MOU in that year,” she said.

“WestJet has been an amazing partner for ITAC and a true advocate for Indigenous tourism in Canada, championing and collaborating on marketing campaigns, which provide much needed support to Indigenous tourism businesses during this difficult time,” says Keith Henry, president and CEO of ITAC.

WestJet capped their presentation at the conference with a prize draw that was won by A.J. Bird of ROCarbon Labs (ROC Indigenous) in Halifax. She took home two roundtrip tickets to anywhere that WestJet flies.

The National Indigenous Tourism Conference wrapped up on March 10. Next year’s conference will be held in Winnipeg, in March of 2023.

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PHOTO Caption

Keith Henry, president and CEO of ITAC and Angela Avery, executive VP for WestJet (r.) help A.J. Bird of ROCarbon Labs (ROC Indigenous) in Halifax celebrate after winning two roundtrip tickets to anywhere that WestJet flies.