COAST SALISH TERRITORY (Vancouver, BC) – May 5, 2020 – Membership numbers for the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) have surged by 33.5 per cent over the past year (April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020), thanks to the strong leadership and industry advocacy of ITAC, infrastructure and funding support for provinces and territories as well as ITAC’s provision of a safety net during a time of a global crisis.
Since the beginning of the year, 230 new Indigenous tourism businesses signed up to join ITAC, bringing the total to 863 members. Last year, ITAC also signed two new memorandums of understanding to assist in building local Indigenous tourism associations with funding, development and marketing expertise:
- MOU with Travel Nunavut: ITAC saw an increase from 3 members in 2019 to 61 members in 2020
- MOU with ITB: ITAC saw an increase from 83 members in 2019 to 148 members in 2020
ITAC, led by President and CEO Keith Henry, has been lobbying hard for Indigenous-led stimulus funding for members. “There is no doubt that Indigenous tourism operators have reached out for support during this global pandemic and it is imperative we hear directly from them and learn the impacts to their businesses so we can help them as best we can financially and with sustainable business strategies,” says Henry. “While the signing of memorandums of understanding with various regions last year continued to build our foundation for a thriving industry, COVID-19 has shown the importance of having an industry association in your corner when a crisis hits.”
Membership in ITAC provides Indigenous tourism operators and businesses with collective support, product development, promotion and marketing of their authentic Indigenous cultural tourism businesses in a respectful protocol. All ITAC members have access to the association’s marketing, sales and business development programs; conferences; professional development training and workshops; industry statistics and information; and, most recently, have been eligible to apply for the COVID-19 Development Stimulus Fund grants.
On April 18, the federal government announced $306.8M in federal stimulus funding offered in loans to support the 6,000 small/medium Indigenous businesses across the country slated to flow through 59 different Aboriginal financial institutions in Canada. Of these, more than 30% (or 1,875) are Indigenous tourism businesses. However, this is still not enough to allow many businesses to remain financially sustainable until the tourism season reopens. As ITAC begins to distribute grant funding to Indigenous members, ITAC is again partnering with the Conference Board of Canada to research COVID-19’s impacts on Indigenous tourism businesses, with results expected at the end of May.
To view all of ITAC’s communications around COVID-19 and the resources available, click here.
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. Prior to 2020, Indigenous tourism was outpacing Canadian tourism activity overall, and international demand for Indigenous experiences was at an all-time high. Due to COVID-19, ITAC recently released a report on the financial challenges facing Indigenous tourism operators and recommended stimulus solutions. As well, a 2020-2021 revised action plan focused on sustaining Indigenous tourism in the face of COVID-19 was released in March.
Deirdre Campbell, Beattie Tartan
Keith Henry, CEO
Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada