Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Officials with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) have some lofty ambitions. And thanks to a significant investment from the Expedia Group, ITAC is one step closer to fulfilling its goals.
An announcement was made Sept. 26 that Expedia Group is providing $100,000 (US) to boost Indigenous tourism in Canada. ITAC and Destination Canada helped secure this latest funding deal.
This news came on the heels of another announcement in early September that an Indigenous Tourism Destination Fund (ITDF) had been launched.
Tourism leaders, including WestJet, Airbnb and Rocky Mountaineer, were among those that were previously announced as contributors to the ITDF.
The goal of the fund is to have Canada become a world leader in Indigenous tourism. And the hope is to raise $2.6 billion over the next seven years for the fund.
The new fund is also a way for the tourism industry to get involved and help advance Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action #92.
This call to action partly reads as follows:
“We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources.”
Keith Henry, who is ITAC’s president and CEO, was pleased to secure the Expedia Group’s investment.
“It’s one of many partners we hope to have. I do think this is going to be the start of many, many partners that are going to sign across the country.”
Henry said about 15 partners have, so far, joined the ITDF. About half of those are non-Indigenous.
“We have some major tourism partners,” he said.
Landing the Expedia Group deal is a significant boost, said Henry.
“Expedia Group is a hub. And what we’re trying to do with Expedia Group is now work with all their hotels that are signed in with their network. So, this is the start of what we hope is an important business relationship.
“Expedia Group has thousands of hotels that people book through their platform. The strategy here with Expedia Group, this is the first one and then we hope that many of the hotels that are participating on their online platform will commit to this program.”
The way the ITDF program works is that an optional fee will be added to travelers, Indigenous businesses and non-Indigenous tourism companies costs to support Indigenous tourism.
The fee is similar to destination marketing fees that hotels currently utilize to support their local destination marketing organizations across the country.
“The idea of the program is we want people to add 25 cents on per person per transaction,” Henry said. “And the idea is we know people want to contribute so they can leave something behind for Indigenous communities and tourism businesses. This money gets reinvested into our programs.”
Rocky Mountaineer, a Vancouver-based rail tour company, is going way above the suggested funding amount.
“Rocky Mountaineer committed to $5 a person,” Henry said. “And they have 100,000 visitors a year, so that’s $500,000.”
Henry is hoping numerous other partners also jump on board to assist the ITDF.
“We know we do need a lot of investments across the country,” he said. “We need a lot more than this. But what this does is it signals that the industry is supporting Indigenous tourism.”
Aditi Mohapatra, the vice-president of global social impact and sustainability for the Expedia Group, said her company is proud to be supporting an important cause.
“The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and Destination Canada’s work in championing and growing Indigenous tourism in Canada is exemplary and Expedia Group’s contribution is intended to help propel this work even further,” she said.
Mohapatra said the funding is part of the company’s social impact and sustainability strategy.
“We are committed to helping provide economic advancement for communities underrepresented in the travel industry, and this collaboration does just that,” she said.
An effort is underway to more than triple Indigenous tourism’s direct gross domestic product (GDP) value from roughly $1.9 billion in 2019 to $6 billion by 2030.
Gloria Loree, Destination Canada’s senior vice-president of marketing strategy and its chief marketing officer, is also pleased the Expedia Group has become one of the IDTF’s latest partners.
“Only with meaningful and clear action, in tandem with our partners, can we truly support Indigenous tourism, and help Canada become a beacon of hope for other communities around the world,” Loree said.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.