After all, Indigenous experiences can play a vital role in Canada’s reconciliation process, as well as bringing the deep-pocketed international traveler back to Canada.
Lebawit Lily Girma
The Canadian government published its 2022 budget this month and there are few references to the tourism sector — only one page out of a 304-page report. No extension either of the tourism and hotel recovery program, which granted wage and rental subsidies to the sector. This is due to expire on May 7, despite the demand for continued support from the private sector.
But aside from some dashed industry expectations, there is cause for optimism, according to Canada’s tourism leaders. The sector will receive $1 billion for 2022-23, a similar amount to last year’s budget. The government will develop a new national tourism growth strategy, in collaboration with the industry. Last but not least, Canada’s Indigenous tourism sector will receive $20 million in a first-ever dedicated Indigenous Tourism Fund, plus $4.8 million to support the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada over two years, which represents a longer-term commitment than last year.
“Last year, we felt that Indigenous tourism was being left behind in many ways,” said Keith Henry, CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) during a presentation to members this week. “I’m very proud to say that this year we have more tools to support an Indigenous-led strategy.
Henry said these funds are in addition to ITAC’s new five-year agreement with Destination Canada to receive $2.2 million each year for the first three years, plus approximately $4 million from a national application. tourism relief fund pending final approval. “We’re really close to $40 million. It’s very exciting; It wasn’t quite the numbers we were hoping for in our $65 million plan, but it’s not that far off, so we’re very happy to see that.
Henry said it was not yet clear whether allocations from the new Indigenous Tourism Fund would flow through ITAC or its partners, but the association would work with the Ministry of Tourism to figure that out alongside. “Our preference will be, how do we take those resources and put them back in the pocket of the business operator so they can reopen?”
For Beth Potter, CEO of Tourism Industry Association of Canada (AITC), the budget was a little disappointing in that it did not address the renewal of the tourism recovery program, but there are other promising exclusives and recommendations, in addition to strong support for indigenous tourism.
“We were pleased to see some of the announcements regarding changes to immigration policies and processes that should help address our labor issues, particularly that of temporary foreign workers for seasonal work, and the increased allocation there from 10% of the workforce to 30, Potter said.
A total of $29.3 million over three years for a new trusted employer model would also reduce red tape for regular employers of temporary foreign workers, which Potter says is also a help for the tourism industry.
Regarding the new national strategic plan for tourism growth, Potter said it might not take as long as the industry might think.
“I’ve already had a few conversations to figure out what the timeline is on this, and it’s definitely something they want to get rolling quickly and throughout the summer,” said AITC’s Potter. .
Henry of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada said he sees the announcement of a new plan as a sign that the government is ready to update its previous strategy for the sector and presents an opportunity for the sector. indigenous tourism. “I think this is an opportunity for us to change the channel from Covid to how we restore growth.”
For now, the summer recovery is looking promising for Canadian businesses after two challenging seasons, a slow increase in traveler numbers this year, as well as continued delays at the land border, with visitors not fully understanding security protocols. pre-entry.
“We are seeing, certainly on the leisure side, that bookings are starting to pick up,” said Potter of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, adding that the biggest concern will be processing capacity versus availability of the workforce to maintain the customer experience.
“I think everyone is going to have a better summer than the last two years. We are really focusing now on spreading the message about the return of business travel and business events.