Aboriginal tourism in British Columbia

Aboriginal tourism in British Columbia


Aboriginal tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in British Columbia’s tourism industry, with total revenue increasing by $32 million dollars over the past 9 years. In order to capitalize on this growth, Aboriginal Tourism BC turned to the Strategic Partnerships Initiative. The Strategic Partnership Initiative, also known as SPI, was launched in 2010 to support Aboriginal participation in major economic opportunities throughout the country. The program coordinates and leverages the efforts and investments of multiple federal departments and agencies. It also supports coordinated interaction with the province, communities and the private sector. Since 2013, the Strategic Partnerships Initiative has made significant investments through the Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC (ATBC) to help develop market-ready tourism products throughout the province. Aboriginal Tourism BC is not only the leader in Canada, it’s really a global leader in terms of Aboriginal or Indigenous tourism. It really provides such a strong relationship around culture, and Strategic Partnership Initiative has been extremely valuable. We worked with the regional staff, and so we just started the conversation. Eventually we created the work plan together. It was an excellent process. And I’m just glad to see that the Government of Canada is continuing to move forward with these initiatives. SPI Funding supported ATBC in the development of an Indigenous cultural tourism strategy, advisory services to support market-ready tourism businesses, and the expansion of the Authentic Aboriginal Certification Program to include Indigenous performers and artisan products. SPI came in, helped us meet our 5-year-plan investment targets. Today we have roughly 72 businesses and our goal is to reach 100 by, of course, 2017. We’ve also launched the Authentic Indigenous website which has roughly 200 Aboriginal artists from British Columbia. Working with SPI did help create new partnerships and reconfirm existing ones. SPI and having those funds allowed us to go and leverage with Western Economic Diversification. The other side of what Strategic Partnership Initiative did was allow us to go back to the province around their marketing dollars to help support the industry. It’s been paramount to the success of implementing our 5-year plan. Skwachàys Lodge is just one example of a business that has benefitted from SPI’s investment in ATBC. Skwachàys Lodge, Canada’s first Indigenous art hotel, is located in downtown Vancouver. Skwachàys is really unique in our portfolio of buildings. Three floors occupied by Aboriginal artists. Art gallery on the main floor, and then we have the 18 hotel rooms on floors 5, 6 and 7. We actually provide the subsidy for those artists living in the building, through the profits of the hotel and gallery. We’re really strong supporters of the ATBC mission and mandate and it’s really been beneficial for us. I think our relationship with ATBC has been an extremely positive one. I think they’ve been a really big help to us. We partnered with them on a Social Media campaign, training tools, create funding streams for marketing programs. The highest level of the ATBC authenticity program allows us to sell art in our gallery which means that we provide artists with fair compensation and it’s phenomenally successful. Indigenous entrepreneurs across the province are becoming market ready thanks to ATBC and SPI. One business, the Kekuli Café, has been featured on the Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here!” Aboriginal Tourism BC has really helped us out in a lot of the marketing for our business; the brochures, the pamphlets, the different events that they do, and our website actually. Being a small business, and starting out, it’s been awesome. We get people find out that we’re here and coming to check us out. ATBC really helped with getting us marketed across Canada, even in Germany, China, so it’s kind of neat to be put out there on the map. Thanks to help from SPI, more authentic Aboriginal tourism experiences than ever have become market ready in BC. ATBC is transforming the tourism industry in BC and helping Aboriginal entrepreneurs create viable and sustainable platforms to share their culture with the rest of the world. Without SPI, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

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