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Whistler Chamber lunch highlights Indigenous tourism

Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada president discusses growing sector



Guests at the July 19 Whistler Chamber Power Lunch were treated to a master class on a growing sector of tourism-Indigenous tourism. Keith Henry, president of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), discussed the organization's efforts to grow the sector and partner with non-Indigenous stakeholders.

"A big challenge we have in Canada, both in tourism and elsewhere, is educating about who are the Indigenous people and what is their story," said Henry, who is M├ętis.

Henry said that fostering Indigenous tourism can give Whistler a "competitive advantage" when it comes to international tourism. According to Henry, Indigenous tourism already makes up around $1.5 billion of Canada's $90 billion tourism industry.

In his presentation, he discussed "The Path Forward," a five-year strategic plan designed to grow Indigenous tourism that was released in 2016 by ITAC.

The plan's target goals for 2021 include growing Indigenous tourism by $300 million, creating a total of 40,233 Indigenous tourism workers and 50 new major Indigenous tourism operators.

Henry said that it is vital that Indigenous culture, in its various forms, is presented in authentic ways, as historically there has been a tendency to present stereotyped versions of it.

"For us authenticity is really important-it has a bit more of a deeper meaning, I would argue," he said.

Henry highlighted the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, as a huge asset to Whistler on the authenticity front. "It just celebrated its ten-year anniversary. As an industry, we're extremely proud of that that facility," he said.

Such institutions are "anchor tenants" of our Indigenous tourism, he said. "Those are the places that we know are going to be open all year, that we can bring into market and promote through different sales channels."

The event was well-attended, with MLA Jordan Sturdy and, Whistler Blackcomb COO Pete Sonntag, Lil'wat Chief Dean Nelson all seated at one table, while other Indigenous elders and community members packed the sold out event.

Check back to or pick up Pique next week for more on this event.