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Indigenous Tourism accord signed in Kelowna to help boost growing economic sector

Indigenous Tourism B.C. and the B.C. government have signed a new accord, renewing a partnership that is centered around the fastest growing sector of tourism in the province.

The Indigenous Tourism Accord was signed on Nov. 14 in Kelowna during the annual International Indigenous Tourism Conference.

According to the B.C. government, the partnership will “help grow opportunities for people and tourism businesses around the province.”

READ MORE: Indigenous tourism conference in Kelowna promotes cultural experiences

The accord is focused on a commitment for the groups to work together in areas such as skills development, revitalization of Indigenous cultures, better cooperation across provincial ministries and collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous tourism operators.

“The signing of the accord… is reaffirming our government’s commitment to Indigenous tourism and helping grow the Indigenous tourism economy.” Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

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The B.C. government is spending more than $400,000 on labour market research and training to give the sector a boost.

Indigenous Tourism BC will lead this work through the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training’s Sector Labour Market Partnership Program.

READ MORE: 1st Costco on First Nation land set to open on Tsuut’ina Nation in 2020

“Strategic and respectful Indigenous tourism development not only provides economic benefits through employment and entrepreneurship, but also grants visitors unique opportunities to learn about local history and culture,” Brenda Baptiste, Chair of ITBC, said. “The Indigenous Tourism Accord marks an important step towards facilitating competitiveness of our province’s Indigenous businesses.”

Tourism operators have seen a dramatic change in the industry over the last 20 years.

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“You can see a lot of businesses, like my own, growing… now we are being entrepreneurs… (we) are telling our story as Indigenous people,” said Frank Antoine, CEO of Moccasin Trails, an adventure tour company based out of Kamloops.

Over 7.2 million visitors are expected to engage in Indigenous tourism experiences in the province over the next two years, according to the B.C. government, who also said Indigenous tourism experiences contribute $705 million a year to B.C.’s economy and employs 7,400 people in more than 400 businesses.