March 13, 2020, Coast Salish Territory (Vancouver, BC) – As Indigenous tourism operators face critical downturns in tourism demand due to COVID-19 and the negative impacts of the recent Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades, Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada’s (ITAC) CEO and President, Keith Henry, is calling on the Federal Government for immediate Indigenous-led solutions.
“It is imperative we find ways to support our members who are facing significant financial losses with tourism essentially coming to a standstill,” says Henry. “We have proactively started a survey for our members so we can quickly understand exactly what the early impacts are for our over 1900 member businesses.”
The survey is available here and ITAC requests members take a moment to fill it out, as the information gathered will support the immediate need for Federal support.
Having two significant issues hit the Indigenous tourism industry is a very serious challenge to its sustainability in 2020, says Henry. Based on early survey results, Henry estimates an immediate 20-25% loss of revenues and the loss of an estimated 10-12,000 jobs, notwithstanding the 400-500 Indigenous tourism business that cannot financially survive the negative financial downturn.
ITAC is working with TIAC to determine broad tourism sector solutions to present to the Federal Government but Henry also stresses the immediate need for separate solutions that target the needs of indigenous tourism businesses.
Recommended solutions include:
- One time funding support for a new national Indigenous tourism campaign targeting the domestic market in 2020. This will drive up demand and combat the negative sentiment expressed during the blockades.
- One time funding support for a new Indigenous tourism campaign targeting the US market, to offset the loss of Chinese and other international markets.
- Emergency Indigenous Business Investment Program – One-time funding in 2020 to financially assist ITAC’s no less than 200 market/export-ready businesses so they can remain operational.
ITAC has also outlined what is at stake due to the significant positive growth the Indigenous tourism sector has realized in the past few years:
- The increase of an estimated 500 Indigenous-owned tourism businesses in the last 5 years;
- The Indigenous tourism industry employs over 40,000 people each year across Canada
- Indigenous tourism has an estimated 1900 businesses in operation today.
Henry also conducted a Facebook Live report Thursday, March 12, on the state of the Indigenous industry which may be viewed here.
Federal Tourism Support Announced So Far
On March 11, the Prime Minister announced a $1.1 billion whole-of-government response to COVID-19. This comprehensive approach includes measures already underway to respond to the outbreak, as well as new investments to limit the spread of the virus in Canada and prepare for its possible broader impacts on our people, our economy, and our small businesses. These measures include:
- Waiving of the mandatory one-week waiting period to claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits for workers who have been directed to self-isolate, allowing them to be paid for the first week of their claim (estimated cost: $5M);
- Enhancing the Work-Sharing program to help support employers and workers who are experiencing a downturn in business due to COVID-19 (estimated cost: $12M);
- Exploring additional measures to support other affected Canadians, including income support for those that are not eligible for EI sickness benefits;
- Should the economy experience tightening credit conditions, the government will act to stimulate the economy by strengthening investment in federal lending agencies such as the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada.
- Flexible arrangement could be made for businesses trying to meet payment obligations to the Canada Revenue Agency.
About the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) is the lead organization tasked with growing the Indigenous tourism industry across the country. Inspired by a vision for a thriving Indigenous tourism economy sharing authentic, memorable and enriching experiences, ITAC develops relationships with other groups and regions with similar mandates. By uniting the Indigenous tourism industry in Canada, ITAC works to enable collective support, product development, promotion and marketing of authentic Indigenous cultural tourism businesses in a respectful protocol. With Indigenous tourism outpacing Canadian tourism activity overall, and international demand for Indigenous experiences at an all-time high, ITAC recently updated its five-year plan. Additionally, ITAC just launched their Nations magazine, highlighting Indigenous people and experiences across the country.
For more information on ITAC visit www.IndigenousTourism.ca
Deirdre Campbell, Beattie Tartan
Keith Henry, Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada