Kelowna will host the International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC) next year, a gathering that’s expected to draw hundreds of attendees.
The announcement was made Thursday by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) and several other groups, including Tourism Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and Indigenous Tourism of B.C. (ITBC).
The IITC is an annual conference bringing together people interested and invested in creating and contributing toward a growing Indigenous tourism industry in Canada and around the world.
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The IITC held its seventh annual conference, a two-day event that drew more than 600 delegates, in Saskatoon this week on Oct. 30 and 31. The 2019 conference will take place in November.
“Our province and region are so proud and honoured to be selected for such a prestigious and important conference,” said Glenn Mandziuk, president and CEO of TOTA. “Being able to submit a unified bid from our region’s Interior Salish nations, provincial partners and Kelowna were keys to our collective success. It further showcases our commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism development through our international Biosphere Destination accreditation.”
“TOTA and ITBC have been pioneers in establishing and growing a thriving Indigenous tourism industry in Canada, and I am very pleased to see the exceptional collaboration with regional Indigenous communities to ensure IITC is a success next year,” said Keith Henry, CEO and president of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC).
“Year over year, we have grown this conference, and I anticipate IITC 2019 will sell out quickly. Kelowna and the Thompson Okanagan Region will be an equally popular destination.”
ITAC said the demand for Indigenous tourism experiences was at an all-time high. The association’s targets for 2024 will see total Indigenous tourism revenues contributing $2.2 billion to the annual Canadian GDP, with 49,383 total jobs in Indigenous tourism and 200 export-ready Indigenous tourism experiences across Canada.