Our 2023 IITC Wrap Up
Last month we attended the three-day-long International Indigenous Tourism Conference, hosted by The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, held at the RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg.
This year’s delegates were invited to take part in a local Indigenous cultural tour/experience of their choice, which included options such as a soap stone carving workshop led by local sculptor Fredrick Spence, two-needle beading workshop led by Métis artist Melanie Gamache, and a tour of the National Indigenous Residential School Museum of Canada – located at the Keeshkeemaquah village, one of the three Long Plain First Nations lands – among others.
The first evening of the conference was filled with delicious food prepared by Indigenous chefs from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, along with live performances and words by Elder Colin Mousseau. Attendees were encouraged to explore the various food stalls scattered throughout the ballroom. The Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers were just one of the several incredible acts to kick off the high energy event.
“This year your hosts invite you on an adventure to understanding as you experience the rich and various tapestry of Indigenous Tourism. Moreover, this years’ conference theme ‘Adventure to Understanding’ represents the bringing together of Indigenous cultures, First Nations, Inuit and Métis and their unique stories, and like our Métis elder said, the threads of the sash woven together make us stronger”, said Vice Chair of ITAC, Brenda Holder at the opening ceremony on Day Two of the conference, led by words and prayers from Elders and dignitaries, Manito Ahbee Festival Dancers and The Spirit Horse Drum Group from Long Plain First Nation. “When it comes to Reconciliation, there is no roadmap to how we get there, but through tourism, this is an excellent opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to honour Indigenous cultures and see how they’re essential and make meaningful impacts on the industry.”
One major announcement made by the team at ITAC was their seven year vision: “We are delighted by the presenters we have gathered for this conference with focused conversations on leadership, development, partnerships and marketing as we look to the future of Indigenous tourism in Canada, and we are excited to share ITACs vision for 2030: making Canada the world leader in Indigenous tourism”, exclaimed Marilyn Jensen, Chair of ITAC. “Our vision for 2030 requires all of us, Indigenous and non, to work together harder than ever before”, added ITAC CEO, Keith Henry.
The conference was jam-packed with speakers sharing their industry knowledge, inspirational conversations, dozens of valuable breakout sessions and an overwhelming sense of community. Robert Bernard, executive director of the Nova Scotia Indigenous Tourism Enterprise Network led a breakout session with Shannon Monk, Cultural Tourism Project Manager at Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office, titled ‘Why Authenticity Matters’, where they discussed how safeguarding cultural authenticity is crucial for building Reconciliation and reviving cultural heritage. Mackenzie Brown from Indigenous Tourism Alberta led a session where the focus was centered on strong community support and how it is a crucial factor in promoting the growth of Indigenous Tourism and developing destinations. ITAC’s Tamara Littlelight joined Indigeno’s very own head of Global Indigenous Tourism, Matt Kinch, to discuss ‘How to Work with Travel Trades'. Matt and Tamara emphasized the importance of pricing and packaging products for their true value, and delivered helpful information for attendees on national industry standards, distribution channel types, net pricing, and commissionable pricing.
Guests were extremely fortunate to have two sensational keynote speakers: The Honourable Murray Sinclair, and Pania Tyson-Nathan, CEO of New Zealand Maori Tourism. Pania highlighted a range of important topics, including the role that non-Indigenous people can play in supporting Indigenous-owned businesses. She emphasized the importance of stepping back and allowing Indigenous people to lead, in order to create a more equitable and prosperous future for Indigenous communities. This approach fosters a socially responsible and sustainable business sector that benefits everyone.
Conference attendees were also shown “Reconciliation in Action - Rome Presentation” where the ITAC team participated in a panel discussion and presented a cultural showcase they experienced in Rome.
The overall impression we were left with from this three-day gathering is that the Indigenous Tourism community is strong, and is growing. The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada has been an extraordinary leader and facilitator in this industry. Since the national non-profit organization was established in 2015, its impact on the tourism industry in Canada has been substantial, which makes us believe their goal to make Canada the world leader in Indigenous tourism by 2030 is wholly achievable.
You can e-mail your signed pledges to: Pledge@IndigenousTourism.ca Watch the latest video from ITAC!
Vision 2030 - Indigenous Tourism Team Canada.mov from Indigenous Tourism Canada on Vimeo.