Indigenous tourism official applauds federal government’s budget support

Thursday, April 18th, 2024 11:04am


Image Caption

Keith Henry, president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada.
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

There are varying views from Indigenous leaders about the federal budget unveiled on April 16.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak was among those who was critical of the budget, stating it did not adequately address the needs of First Nations peoples across the country.

But Keith Henry, the president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), had a different take.

Henry praised federal officials April 17 for dedicating $2.5 million to Indigenous tourism through ITAC in the 2024 budget.

“We’re pleased with the allocation of dedicated funds to ITAC in Budget 2024, signaling government confidence in ITAC and backing of a national co-ordinated Indigenous tourism

strategy,” Henry said.

Henry said he is hopeful the Canadian government will continue its support.

“This is a great first step, and we hope to see continued and long-term stability for the Indigenous tourism sector,” he said.

ITAC officials, however, will continue to advocate for additional funding from the federal government in order to help facilitate the growth of the Indigenous tourism sector in Canada.

Under its 2024/25 Action Plan, ITAC, a national non-profit Indigenous tourism industry organization that was launched in 2015, hopes that Canada becomes the world’s leader in Indigenous tourism by 2030.

There are currently about 1,900 Indigenous tourism businesses across the country. ITAC looks to add 800 new ones within the next half-dozen years.

ITAC also seeks to significantly increase the number of employees working in the Indigenous tourism industry across the country. Currently there are about 39,000 workers in the sector.

The goal is to get this number up to 60,000 by 2030.

Another goal for 2030 is to have the Indigenous tourism sector contribute $6 billion to Canada’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). It is currently contributing less than one third of this goal, about $1.9 billion.

“It took years of strategic thinking, coordination and advocacy for our industry to make it the

success it is today,” Henry said. “We know this industry has so much more potential and

opportunity to make an impact on both Indigenous communities and Canada’s economy.”

ITAC’s latest action plan highlights key priorities in the following areas:

  • Infrastructure and Destination Development
  • Building a Sustainable Tourism Workforce
  • Business Development and Promotion.

Additional federal funding will go a long way to help ITAC officials achieve their goals.

“Indigenous tourism is a path to reconciliation, and with the right investment and long-term vision, Canada is poised to become the world leader by 2030,” Henry said.

Besides benefitting the Canadian economy, investment in Indigenous tourism is a means toward reconciliation if it is led by Indigenous people, reads an ITAC press statement.

That’s because Indigenous tourism allows Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities to share their stories through their lens to both international and domestic visitors. It also provides cultural preservation, economic stability and amplifies Indigenous voices, which are frequently overlooked.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.