COAST SALISH TERRITORY (Vancouver, BC) – Over 600 Indigenous tourism businesses across Canada have applied, requesting $14.4 million from a COVID-19 Development Stimulus Fund the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada ( ITAC) set up in March, providing businesses with grants of up to $25,000 each to help Indigenous entrepreneurs and their businesses stay afloat during these difficult times.
The deadline to apply for funding requests was yesterday, April 30, 2020 and 604 Indigenous tourism business owners responded. To create the fund, ITAC allocated its annual development grant money along with a large amount of savings from other programs, with a goal to assist in providing relief for Indigenous tourism businesses that are being affected by the impacts of COVID-19. Paired with additional federal funding, ITAC hopes the program will help businesses to prepare for future tourism seasons by allowing them to focus on market awareness, training qualified staff and designing sustainable business growth strategies.
The grants are being provided to Indigenous tourism business at various stages of their tourism development:
- 111 Export Ready Businesses – Refers to a business that markets to and through travel trade distribution sales channels, understands commission or net rate pricing, agrees to trade bookings and cancellation policy.
- 236 Market Ready Businesses – Refers to a business that markets to potential visitors; communicate with potential visitors year-round, and is ready to accept advanced reservations.
- 115 Visitor Ready Businesses – Refers to a business that has all of their licenses, permits and insurance in place in order to operate legally.
- 136 Doors Open Businesses – Refers to tourism-related services and experiences that appear to be available, but they are not clearly explained and may be on-demand-only, with no dedicated website, lack of defined hours of operation and may be on-call only.
The remaining Indigenous businesses which applied will be further accessed by ITAC to determine their stage of tourism development.
“We know the ITAC COVID-19 Development Stimulus Fund is not enough but it was what we could do immediately to provide Indigenous tourism operators some relief,” says Keith Henry, ITAC’s President and CEO. “We continue to work with our partners at the federal government level to identify additional funding from Indigenous-led sources as each day becomes more critical for the survival of our industry.”
A recent Destination Canada report by McKinsey and Company reinforced the initial research and member outreach conducted by ITAC, which revealed that following the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indigenous tourism sector across Canada is forecasted to lose $800-900M in GDP contribution and at least 12,000 jobs in 2020. Without an immediate injection of funds including grants, hundreds of Indigenous tourism operators are forecasted to go out of business within weeks.
On April 18, the federal government announced $306.8 million dollars in federal stimulus funding offered in loans to support the 6000 small/medium Indigenous businesses across the country slated to flow through 59 different Aboriginal financial institutions in Canada. Of these, more than 30%, or 1875, 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.
“If the existing foundation within our tourism economy of almost 2000 Indigenous tourism businesses fails, the impact to Canada’s tourism sector as a whole cannot be ignored. One in three international visitors to Canada state they seek an Indigenous tourism experience,” says Henry. “As well, many local economies rely on tourism, and specifically Indigenous tourism, to survive.”
ITAC thanks the Honourable Minister Joly, the Honourable Minister Bennett and the Honourable Minister Miller and their teams for continuing to listen and respond to the unique needs of the Indigenous tourism industry across Canada. ITAC and its Indigenous tourism industry partners will continue to work to sustain the Indigenous tourism industry with its strategic partners at the Government of Canada and the Aboriginal financial institution network.
For more information on the ITAC’s COVID-19 Development Stimulus Fund, click here.
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.
Keith Henry, CEO
Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
French media requests
Sebastien Desnoyers-Picard, Chief Marketing Officer
Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada