Squilax, Secwépemc Nation Territory, British Columbia – The opening words from Kukpi7 Frank Antoine of Bonaparte Indian Band set the stage for the Introduction to Indigenous Tourism workshop held June 1-4 at Quaaout Lodge. Kukpi7 Antoine, who co-facilitated the workshop with his business partner Greg Hopf of Moccasin Trails, spoke of the importance of authenticity in building visitor experiences and the privilege of bringing people closer to Secwépemc culture through tourism. “With Indigenous Tourism, you arrive as a guest and you leave as a friend,” says Kukpi7 Antoine.
Clearly in alignment with Kukpi7 Antoine’s philosophy, the workshop focused on developing business ideas out of the real-life stories and lived experiences of the ten attendees from across Secwépemc’ulucw. Each day began with a smudging ceremony and included an on-the-land experience. Participants experienced a blend of basic business theory and real-life examples of Indigenous tourism experiences. Sharon Bond, the founder of Kekuli Café shared her inspiring story with the group. Participants received a deeper understanding of Indigenous Tourism and how Indigenous Entrepreneurs can turn what they do, make, or know into a tourism business opportunity. Workshop attendee Ashley Tarves shares, “I’m so inspired and motivated by this workshop. It has become a platform to really launch into my journey of finding out who I am and to create my business dream into a reality.”
At the end of the workshop each participant pitched their business idea to the group. “We had the opportunity to indulge in cultural experiences together for the future of Indigenous Tourism,” says Camm Goodyear, who currently works in the cultural department of Quaaout Lodge.
The Introduction to Indigenous Tourism workshop was provided through a partnership between the Tsuts’weye Women’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Network and Secwépemc Lakes Tourism, both projects of Community Futures Shuswap. “We wanted to deliver a program for Secwepemc community members that would provide the knowledge for them to become familiar with the Indigenous tourism industry. We also wanted Indigenous entrepreneurs to be inspired to start or grow their own tourism business. To realize the opportunities for the Secwepemc communities in the Indigenous tourism industry, we need local Indigenous tourism operators,” says Robyn Cyr, Secwepemc Lakes Tourism project coordinator. “The opportunities for the communities are there, and this workshop will assist Indigenous Entrepreneurs to access those opportunities.”
Carmen Massey, Tsuts’weye project manager, adds, “We were pleased to engage Moccasin Trails to deliver this workshop. Frank and Greg developed their own tourism business from scratch and are so willing to share what they have learned with others. I loved watching the group come together over four days, to lift one another up. To see the participants come to realize that Indigenous Tourism is special and something that only Indigenous people can deliver. It was clear from this course that while other Tourism activities feed you with activities and information, Indigenous Tourism, nourishes your senses with stories, experiences, and memories. It was a privilege to bear witness to this workshop.”
“The workshop is focused on the learners,” says Hopf. “They are the future of our Indigenous Tourism industry. We need to continue and support these individuals. This past week is just the tip of the iceberg on what they can learn. We have set up a network to support them from here. The most important part now is to set up a mentoring system for these participants to stay engaged, motivated and inspired.”
The “Introduction to Indigenous Tourism” workshop was funded through the Government of Canada, Community Futures Shuswap, and the Province of British Columbia. Additional support was provided by the Little Shuswap Lake Band and the Quaaout Lodge.
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