Indigenous tourism conference in Kelowna promotes cultural experiences

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Indigenous tourism leaders from around the world have descended on Kelowna, B.C. for a two day tourism conference promoting authentic First Nations experiences.

The eighth annual International Indigenous Tourism Conference is being hosted by the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort.

President and CEO Keith Henry said tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in Canada and there is heightened demand for Indigenous experiences and events.

READ MORE: Kelowna to host International Indigenous Tourism Conference in 2019

“The growth for Indigenous tourism has never been stronger than it is right now. We’ve grown 23 per cent over the last three years… so visitor demand is increasing both domestically and internationally,” he said on Wednesday.

Official grand opening of the Indigenous tourism conference in Kelowna. Jim Douglas\Global News

Seven hundred delegates are attending the conference bringing together representatives from the Canadian tourism industry, First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities, as well as representatives from global Indigenous tourism organizations to discuss Indigenous tourism topics, barriers, opportunities and trends.

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“The challenge we’ve got, despite the growth, we really need to bring more types of businesses and experiences to market and so this conference is aiming at dealing with key things around development, marketing, leadership and partnership,” Henry said.

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This year, the conference theme is, “Inspire. Transform. Unite. Accelerating Indigenous tourism growth.”

Henry said tourists are wanting to experience First Nations culture and way of life.

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“People are thirsting for transformative change, meaningful experiences, and that’s through story-telling, it’s through guided experiences,” he said.

ITAC promotes dozens of B.C. activities on its website, including rafting on the Adams River, staying at the Bella guest cabins in the Great Bear Rainforest and visiting Indigenous wineries.

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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.

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