678 tourism businesses have received grants from ITAC’s COVID-19 Stimulus Development Fund since the onset of the pandemic

Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Vancouver, BC – Last week, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) awarded the final phase of the COVID-19 Stimulus Development Fund grants as part of their ongoing efforts to help Indigenous tourism operators recover and build resiliency from the devastating impacts of COVID-19. Since the inception of the fund in March, ITAC has awarded 678 non-repayable contributions of up to $25,000 per applicant, totalling $16.21 million. These grants, which have reached a mix of export-, market- and visitor-ready Indigenous tourism businesses in Canada, were made possible with the support of the Federal Government via Indigenous Services Canada.

Since COVID-19 began to severely impact the Canadian tourism and hospitality industry in March, ITAC has been working to develop solutions for recovery and resilience for its members. Recognizing the immediate need of the community, ITAC deferred its annual development grant money along with a large amount of savings from other programs to establish the COVID-19 Stimulus Development Fund at the beginning of the travel restrictions. Additionally, in June the Federal Government announced $133 million to help Indigenous businesses suffering the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, of which $16 million was to be allocated in support of Indigenous tourism businesses and delivered by ITAC. This was a direct response to ITAC’s strategic advocacy campaign that emphasized the impacts of COVID-19 on the once-thriving Indigenous tourism industry.

“The impacts of COVID-19 on our Indigenous tourism sector cannot be understated,” says Keith Henry, ITAC’s President and CEO. “Prior to 2020, Indigenous tourism was industry-leading and outpacing Canadian tourism activity overall but this came to an almost complete standstill. The ability to advocate and step up alongside Indigenous Services Canada to provide financial support to struggling businesses is exactly what ITAC is here for.”

“This funding will help Indigenous tourism businesses to protect jobs and support their recovery from the pandemic. Our message to those whose jobs depend on Indigenous tourism is clear: we’ve been here for you with immediate measures to help you survive this pandemic, and we’ll get through this, together.” – The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.

“The Indigenous tourism industry is a driving force of many local economies across Canada. As the industry has been particularly hard hit economically by the COVID-19 pandemic, our government has contributed $16 million to support Indigenous tourism businesses in need, through the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada. This funding is helping Indigenous tourism businesses weather COVID-19 by supporting businesses as they seek out new ways of operating in a changed world.”–The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services

“We thank the Honourable Minister Joly and the Honourable Minister Miller and their respective teams for continuing to listen and respond to the unique needs of the Indigenous tourism industry in Canada,” says Henry. “We are grateful for their continued support and trust through these difficult times and their support reflects an understanding of how important our sector is to the Canadian tourism economy.”

Now, as Canada faces a second wave of the pandemic, ITAC’s ongoing advocacy campaign continues to be relentless in petitioning for much-needed financial support from federal and provincial governments for the Indigenous tourism industry. ITAC will continue to pursue increased support for the stimulus grant program and remains united in facing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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