Alberta’s Indigenous tourism industry is set to be promoted to international audiences, following a new agreement penned Tuesday.
The Edmonton International Airport (YEG) and Indigenous Tourism Alberta (ITA) signed a memorandum of understanding at the fourth annual ITA gathering on Tuesday.
Andy Gibbons, WestJet’s vice-president of external affairs, said people are hungry for new travel experiences and want to support Indigenous businesses at the same time following the end of most pandemic restrictions .
“It is reconcili-action. It is following through on recommendation 92 of the (Truth and Reconciliation) Commission,” said Gibbons.
Recommendation 92 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for the corporate sector in Canada to apply the principles of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to corporate policy and core operational activities.
“What you’re going to see is collaboration with key international markets,” said ITA CEO Shae Bird.
Bird said Indigenous tourism will be marketed both to international audiences and to travellers arriving at YEG.
“People arriving in Edmonton (will) understand and see the diversity of Indigenous tourism product overall.”
ITA describes Indigenous tourism as unique and immersive experiences offered by members throughout the province.
On their website, they showcase a range of experiences, like a guided tour through medicinal plants and Métis culture, a fishing trip with an Indigenous guide and an educational program at Rainy Creek Ranch.
“The members across our province all have very unique, authentic Indigenous stories to share and the world wants to know but we can only do so much as a small organization,” said Bird.
Myron Keehn is the vice president of air service and business development for YEG. He said he’s spoken with international travellers who have come here for Indigenous tourism.
“I’ve had the privilege of bringing international visitors in from Asia, Europe and South America to see the unique Indigenous experiences we have in this province, to buy Indigenous wares, and the crafts and the great, unbelievable art that happens,” said Keehn.
Bird said promoting Indigenous tourism businesses will help the communities they’re from.
“When they hear these stories and come experience these experiences, that is also going to provide support for those operators, those members, their communities, their youth, their elders, knowledge keepers,” he said.
“To see that full circle outcome from lifting up those voices and sharing them on a global stage, I think that’s really the success that we want to see in the long term.”