‘Building Back Better’ focuses on returning Indigenous tourism to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2025
Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Vancouver, BC – The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) has released their 2022-25 Strategic Plan: Building Back Better, which will focus on revitalizing the Indigenous tourism industry from the ongoing devastating impacts of COVID-19.
The Indigenous tourism industry is one of the strongest platforms for Canadians to rally support around Indigenous communities. As the country continues to mourn the children lost to residential schools and struggles to find a way to support reconciliation, Indigenous tourism plays a vital role in educating and sharing Indigenous culture. Experiencing Indigenous tourism firsthand is a way to gain perspective, connect to our lands, traditions and way of life, understand Indigenous history in Canada and have an impact on Indigenous economic growth.
“Funding support demonstrates reconciliation in action by creating and expanding tourism economic development projects with Indigenous communities while supporting self-determination for Indigenous businesses,” says Keith Henry, President and CEO of ITAC. “Prior to COVID-19, the growth of the Indigenous tourism sector in Canada provided a globally recognized competitive advantage for the country’s tourism industry. It also brought economic growth and support for several Indigenous communities, some with limited economic opportunities, providing a successful Indigenous-led model.”
Before COVID-19, Indigenous tourism in Canada saw unprecedented growth, as a result of Indigenous-led programs and solutions specifically tailored by ITAC to fit the unique needs of Indigenous tourism operators. Indigenous tourism GDP increased from $1.4 billion in 2014 to nearly $1.9 billion in 2019, and export readiness increased from 65 to over 130 Indigenous-owned businesses within only three short years. In less than 24 months, almost 70 percent of Indigenous tourism GDP contribution was lost, and with that came hibernation of several Indigenous tourism businesses throughout Canada and substantial loss of jobs.
ITAC’s national efforts and strategy align well with the United Nations call to action in contributing meaningfully towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As the Indigenous tourism industry in Canada recovers from COVID-19, ITAC has set sights on moving forward in the most adaptable and sustainable manner possible contributing meaningfully towards several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2022-25 Strategic Plan has three main priorities:
- Inspiring ITAC member businesses across the country to rebuild or refocus their business offering through targeted business support, education and training.
- Leveraging partnership opportunities and investments with the Provincial Territorial Indigenous tourism associations to maintain their membership and infrastructure.
- Strengthening ITAC as the national leader and advocate for Indigenous tourism operators and stabilizing funding through the federal government, partners and membership.
While COVID-19 has paused the Indigenous tourism industry’s flourishing growth, ITAC has revised its targets to build back to pre-COVID levels by 2025, three years sooner than projected. This includes:
- $1.9 billion in direct GDP contributions
- 1,900 Indigenous tourism businesses
- 40,000 Indigenous tourism employees
ITAC has strongly supported Indigenous tourism businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and this would not have been possible without the ongoing support of funding partners and the Government of Canada.
This recovery plan requires a $65 million investment over three years, which in turn will help create 21,000 jobs. 57 percent of all jobs in the Indigenous tourism industry are occupied by Indigenous Peoples, two times more than any other sector, and 33 percent of all Indigenous tourism businesses in Canada are owned by women. Additionally, GDP contribution will rise back to $1.86 billion by 2025, three years sooner than expected. With this three-year investment, the Indigenous tourism industry will rebuild faster, and more efficiently, with an Indigenous-led approach, adapted and tailored to the unique needs of Indigenous tourism operators.
When ITAC invests with their industry partners, that investment is further leveraged with provincial marketing organizations and destination marketing organizations. This circular leveraged funding supports the growth of the Indigenous tourism industry across the entire country.
“Thank you to our industry partners who joined us in strategic planning. Their collaboration and time commitment have been invaluable to aligning our national Indigenous tourism strategy,” says Henry. “The reality is we need to rebuild before 2025. If we wait for the industry to rebuild by 2028, businesses might not survive. We hope the government will support our ask so we can continue to implement Indigenous-led solutions to rebound as fast as possible.”
The 2022-25 Strategic Plan: Building Back Better, can be viewed here.