Supporting Aboriginal Tourism

Takaya Tours | BCBusiness
North Vancouver’s Takaya Tours First Nation Canoe and Kayak Adventures.

The International Aboriginal Tourism Conference will host a global audience in Whistler with the goal of creating more partnerships in the tourism industry

Next week, from April 14-16, the Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC (AtBC) will host its third annual conference. After two successful years in Osoyoos, B.C., the conference moves this year to Whistler. AtBC CEO Keith Henry says that moving to Whistler was a way to help support another stakeholder in B.C.’s aboriginal tourism sector, in this case the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, which will host the delegate welcome and networking event on the first night. The centre is across the street from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, where the remainder of the conference sessions will be held.

After last year’s conference piqued significant interest outside of Canada, the association shifted its content from a national focus to a global scope. Henry says he’s expecting delegates from roughly 12 countries, including panellists from Australia, the U.S., New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Namibia and Bulgaria. “International communities are really rallying around what we’re doing here in Canada,” he says. “We are seen as global leaders right now.”

Sessions such as “Attracting the International Visitor” and “Regional Indigenous Tourism Strategies” will examine issues and opportunities facing aboriginal tourism worldwide. “The entire theme of this year is around building effective partnerships for indigenous tourism, and every single panel we set up has to answer that question,” says Henry.

He singles out Anna Pollack’s keynote on “the growth of conscious travel and aboriginal tourism’s role” as a must-attend session. “She helps people understand the impacts of tourism to communities and cultures,” he says. “In this rush for tourism, you’ve got to ask yourself: Are you prepared and do you want it? And I think she makes us think about that in terms of her whole concept of conscious travel.”

Henry hopes that the new global focus will help B.C. communities see that they are not alone. “I think there’s a perception in the aboriginal community here that our issues are unique, that we’re the only ones that face those kinds of struggles,” he says. “What I’m looking forward to on the international scale is to help people realize that the global community issues on developing aboriginal tourism are quite similar. We are more connected than we might realize.”