In 2018, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) partnered with The Conference Board of Canada to conduct research into the current state of the Indigenous tourism industry in Canada. This new research follows up from ITAC’s previous nation-wide research project undertaken in 2015.

Released February 20, 2019, the new Conference Board of Canada research shows the Indigenous tourism sector growing at a rapid rate, outpacing Canadian tourism activity overall. The direct economic benefits (GDP) attributed to the Indigenous tourism sector in Canada rose 23.2% between 2014 and 2017, going from $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion. Compared with a 12.0% increase in overall tourism activity in Canada, this growth shows the recent and momentous acceleration of the Indigenous tourism sector across the country.

Five key findings highlighted in the research:

1.Indigenous tourism sector growth is outpacing Canadian tourism activity overall.
•  Growth in Indigenous tourism sector employment and GDP is substantially outpacing growth in employment and GDP generated by overall tourism activity in Canada (employment: +18.7% vs +5.1%; GDP: +23.2% vs +12.0%)

2. Indigenous tourism is diverse and made up of many different business models.
•  While the main drivers of employment and GDP contributions come from air transportation and resort casinos, it is the cultural workers, such as Elders and knowledge keepers, who define many of the authentic Indigenous cultural experiences available to tourists in Canada.

3. Barriers to growth include access to financing and training.
•   Indigenous tourism is growing and wants to grow more, with business owners identifying access to financing and marketing support & training as their main barriers to growth.

4. International travellers are particularly important to Indigenous cultural tourism.
•   Compared with Indigenous tourism businesses without a cultural focus, those involved in cultural tourism more frequently mentioned tourists from foreign markets as part of their customer base.

5. Indigenous tourism has growth potential.
•   At the current pace of Indigenous tourism growth, and with continued investment, there is a strong case for ITAC to  reach its goals outlined in its new Five-Year Plan: Accelerating Indigenous Tourism in Canada (2019–2024).

Ontario employs the largest amount of people in the Indigenous tourism sector, providing 12,924 jobs, followed by British Columbia (6,957) and Quebec (4,083). In terms of direct economic footprint of the Indigenous tourism sector, Ontario continues to lead the way, with the highest GDP at $622.1 million, followed by British Columbia ($260.3 million) and Alberta ($166.2 million).