Submitted by the Anishinabek Nation Economic Development Department
Throughout our exploration of areas of economic development, we have looked at things from various angles. This month we will further explore the development of our local and business economies with a focus on the tourism industry.
Tourism encompasses a wide range of service and retail sectors and is an essential part of many economic development plans. In 2019, the last normal year for the tourism industry, Canada recorded $ 105 billion in revenue and nearly 2 million jobs from the tourism sector. If we think about where we live, we can identify a few factors that make our tourism potential important.
Nationally, Canada is well known for being a safe and friendly travel destination and is well positioned to take advantage of the ever-growing experience economy. We have a unique opportunity to offer various types of nature-based experiences due to our four seasons, natural spaces and wildlife.
As we move to the provincial and local scales, the concept of âstaysâ and the discovery of local experiences also multiply. Our local markets are seeing an increase in the number of people who wish to add value and adventure to their lifestyle more frequently and through the addition of more economical options. With the impacts of COVID-19 on travel, it is possible to reach out and grab the attention of people who desperately want a vacation but have been forced to reconsider their usual practices.
Now for the First Nations perspective. Cultural experiences are increasingly popular; people are interested in making their trips and activities useful, based on the desire to learn and gain experience in different cultures. Indigenous tourism is a term that has gained popularity within the industry. The following are some examples of goods and services within and supporting the Aboriginal tourism sector: exploring our history; retail sales of traditional products such as crafts, foods and materials; or simply land tours guided by an Aboriginal person. These types of tourism businesses have had a significant impact on communities around the world, from concepts like Yalanji art classes and foraging trips to Australia, Chihuahua story telling and adventures. trekking in Mexico or the Maori experiential adventures in New Zealand.
According to Indigenous Tourism Ontario, 1 in 3 international tourists coming to Canada are interested in learning about Indigenous culture. And, if we attract people with our rich culture and history, why not take the initiative to determine how this is represented and delivered, and reap the benefits accordingly?
Such concepts have enormous potential to increase not only the capacity in the form of revenue for operators, but also communities and businesses in the community and surrounding areas. As a business model, it is undoubtedly a large market and offers many options that can be autonomous or promote business cooperation, economy building and skills development in our regions. For example, Indigenous Tourism Ontario recently launched its food tourism strategy, FEAST: Cultivating Indigenous Food Tourism in Ontario, which sees food as the foundation for bringing people together and sharing our stories, while supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs and developing our savings.
If we consider our vast history with food – from harvesting and hunting to preparing and preserving (and, yes, eating it) – there are so many stories and methods shared, even though food is fundamentally different. From another perspective, by expanding the concept and having additional, but related, opportunities available, we can attract and capitalize on different types of clients based on their initial area of ââinterest. With this big picture in mind, an event or experience can turn into a weeklong adventure.
The key here is that an industry like Indigenous tourism also serves to preserve and promote the respective histories, cultures and resources of our communities. As renowned psychologist and business professor Gad Saad said, âMarketing is fundamental to what makes us human. Marketing isn’t all about selling chewing gum, cars, cell phones, and travel packages. Everything in life involves the process of marketing something to someone.
There is a strong opinion that by increasing awareness of the culture, connections to the land and history of indigenous peoples, we can see a parallel increase in the level of support for rights and preservation of heritage, cooperation on development opportunities and respect for human rights. Tourism offers an ideal opportunity to achieve these goals when the experience becomes a form of passive education. This is where we can turn a tourist into a traveler who values ââthe place, the people and the experience. Daniel J Boorstin, American historian, author and twelfth Librarian of the Congress of the United States summed it up well: âThe [traveller] was active; he relentlessly went in search of people, adventures, experiences. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He’s going to âdo some sightseeingâ.
So maybe we’re not really talking about building an industry. Maybe we’re talking about building something bigger; something that fuels our economies, creates self-sufficiency and is in our broader interest to preserve our lands, communities and cultures.