An Aboriginal Tourism experience. | BCBusiness

An Aboriginal Tourism experience. | BCBusiness
An Aboriginal performer dances in Stanley Park.

Aboriginal Travel Services (ATS) is B.C.’s First Aboriginal-owned travel agency, focusing on business and leisure needs of companies, First Nations bands and individual tourists

One of the province’s key differentiators in the cut-throat competition for international tourists just got some much-needed help. 

Launched earlier this month by Aboriginal Tourism BC, the non-profit, membership-based organization tasked with growing and promoting “a sustainable, culturally rich Aboriginal tourism industry,” the new travel agency will lean heavily on exclusive, insider knowledge to deliver unique experiences, says Scott Roberts,
vice-president of Aboriginal Travel Services.
 
“ATS is employing First Nations individuals that have local knowledge of authentic Aboriginal experiences and are able to tailor packages to a specific guest requirement,” he says. “We will also be selling market-ready product developed by Aboriginal Tourism BC on a consultancy basis currently and online in the future.”
 
The agency was also developed as a social enterprise, with the dual purpose of selling travel services that “directly impact the culture and economic opportunities among First Nations communities we service,” says Scott.
“First Nations employment both within the agency and among the Aboriginal Tourism experiences we are selling is a key component of our business model.”
 
ATS will also reinvest profits into the Aboriginal communities and tourism initiatives. 
 
“In addition to direct travel and accommodation savings generated based on preferred supplier pricing and established partnerships, a portion of profits from any fees associated with booking corporate or leisure travel is reinvested in Aboriginal tourism development,” Scott adds.
 
The agency is not a stand-alone product, and the initiative is a partnership with Vancouver-based WD World Travel, an “international travel management company,” according to company literature, in business since 1992.
 
“[WD World Travel] was selected based on a combination of technology infrastructure, hosting capabilities, location and overall fit with our business model,” says Scott. He says that the initiative will be stronger by the partnership, something that wasn’t allowed until recent changes to travel industry regulations associated with the B.C. Consumer Protection Act.
 
“[Rules] previously disallowed the establishment of a host agency alignment that ATS currently has in effect, he says. “The investment in stand-alone technology, licensing, real-estate and overall staffing requirements would previously not likely have met an acceptable return on investment.”
 
The service is being rolled out in phases, with the current site “launched primarily as an information and awareness tool that enables the agency to gather customer information and provide personal customer inter-action,” says Scott. The agency will then move on to personalized registration profiles that will allow for online corporate booking capabilities. “Future enhancements will permit leisure travel and package holiday bookings online,” he says.