Invest in Our Future

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Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations (Wendake, Quebec)

Invest in Our Future

Indigenous Tourism Infrastructure

Invest in Our Future Initiative

Investment in Indigenous Tourism Infrastructure and Economic Recovery

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) is launching Building Back Better 2022-25 Strategic Recovery Plan for the Indigenous tourism sector in Canada.

Accessible investment in tourism-related infrastructure will be a catalyst for economic recovery, strengthening resilience as we rebuild the sector. 

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Indigenous tourism operators across Canada took part in ITAC’s Invest in Our Future initiative from November 2 to November 29, 2021.

Invest in Our Future assessed
the economic and social benefits of infrastructure investments made in
Indigenous tourism businesses
over the last

15 years. 

Indigenous tourism business operators from across Canada ranging from hotels, restaurants, arts and heritage, airlines, casinos, and adventure tour operators participated.  

Combined with the Conference Board of Canada’s Impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s Indigenous Tourism Sector report, ITAC has engaged more than 650 Indigenous tourism operators between October 2020 and November 2021 to plan its  Building Back Better  strategy for recovery.

Invest in Our Future surveyed Indigenous tourism operators across regions to understand the impact of infrastructure investment in three areas:

  1. Historical, Foregone, and Planned Infrastructure Investments

  2. Job Creation, Diversity, and Inclusion

  3. Supply Chain Impact

Investing in Indigenous tourism infrastructure today will have unequivocal positive and lasting benefits for communities and businesses of every size. It is a decision to invest in the future of Canada's Indigenous people, and in the greater economy.

Keith Henry
President and CEO, Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada

The Indigenous tourism industry continues to feel the drastic effects of the unprecedented halt in global economic activity suffered in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Canada can regain economic momentum and strengthen resilience against future disruption by leveraging historical Indigenous tourism infrastructure investments. 

Invest in Our Future Insights

Building Back Better

Historical, Foregone, and Planned Infrastructure Investments


Indigenous tourism businesses vary dramatically in size with participants reporting annual revenue from between $10K to over $50M. Historically Indigenous tourism operators have made significant investments in infrastructure. Of the respondents:

  • 69% of businesses reported making infrastructure investments in the past 10 years with project expenditures varying from $10K to over $15M

  • One-quarter of businesses reported investments of over $100K.

  • In the last two years, 41% of Indigenous tourism operators reported planned capital projects were cancelled.  

 

In the last two years, 41% of Indigenous tourism operators reported having to cancel capital investment projects.

The industry remains vulnerable.  Recapitalizing Indigenous tourism infrastructure will avoid stranded assets, and unlock economic recovery, and growth.

1

The National Context 

Indigenous Tourism Infrastructure Investments are Nation-Wide

There are approximately
1,900 Indigenous businesses in the Indigenous tourism industry across Canada.

Indigenous communities relying heavily on tourism have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, the Conference Board of Canada (CBOB) estimated that the sector was on a growth trajectory supporting over 38,000 jobs and accounting for $1.86 billion of Canada’s GDP.

Quick Facts

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Many Indigenous tourism businesses operate in rural communities and reserve lands, creating economic opportunities and employment for local and Indigenous communities.

Approximately 28% of Indigenous tourism businesses are community-owned or affiliated.

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61% of businesses in the Indigenous tourism industry operate in rural communities.

Figure based on location directory of 969 businesses.

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An estimated 25% of Indigenous tourism businesses operate on reserve lands.

The National Context
Indigenous Tourism Activity by Sector and Revenue Impact

The Transportation, Accommodation and Recreation and Outdoor Adventures sectors have the highest percentage of Indigenous tourism businesses across Canada. 

Percentage of Indigenous Tourism Businesses by Sector

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The top 3 sectors within the Indigenous tourism industry employing the highest number of workers across Canada are:

  1. Recreation

  2. Accommodation

  3. Gaming

Number of Employees by Sector

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Revenue and Number
of Employees by Region

Insights and Building Back Better

Historical, Foregone, and Planned Indigenous Tourism Infrastructure Investments

Investment in Indigenous tourism infrastructure has seen most success with ITAC as the lead national organization, taking an Indigenous-led and strategic approach to developing and supporting Indigenous tourism operators as they make these investments.  

Prior to COVID-19 Indigenous tourism was outpacing "mainstream" tourism growth in Canada, with 2019 the most successful year to date.

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Club Odanak (La Tuque, Quebec)

Of survey respondents:

26% of businesses reported at least doubling their customer base in the past 5 years.

43% of businesses reported introducing a new product or service line in the past 5 years.

60% of businesses reported achieving a new customer base or monthly revenue threshold in the past 5 years.

Businesses reported real revenue growth rate of
481% from the start-up year to peak year in 2019.

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Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort (70 Mile House, British Columbia)

Indigenous tourism businesses want to expand. 

41% of Indigenous tourism operators reported deferring planned capital projects and 16% reported deferring business development projects due to the pandemic. 

50% of businesses have confirmed plans for investment in capital infrastructure as travel restrictions ease and another 20% reported potential investment plans dependent on funding.

Project budgets vary from $10K to over $5M and can generate as many as 30 new jobs and $2M in annual revenue per project.

Planned projects include:

  • Opening additional locations 

  • Expanding square footage

  • Increasing operations

  • Renovations and upgrading equipment

  • Providing additional services such as recreational facilities

  • Installation of renewable energy systems

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We encourage Government to meet its goal for economic recovery and inclusion by increasing investments in the Indigenous tourism sector and related infrastructure.  

Vik Mahajan, CEO 
River Cree Resort and Casino

River Cree Resort and Casino (Edmonton, Alberta)

Building Back Better

Recapitalizing Indigenous tourism infrastructure will unlock economic recovery and growth.

Job Creation, Diversity, and Inclusion

According to CBOC’s 2021 report, at the peak of the pandemic, nearly 60% of jobs in the Indigenous tourism industry were lost.

Employment opportunities are rising, but the impact of the pandemic is long-lasting and significant.  

Investment in Indigenous tourism infrastructure is an investment in jobs for Indigenous peoples, including women, elders, and youth.

57% of employees working for Indigenous tourism operators across Canada identify as Indigenous.
 

No other sector employs the same proportion of Indigenous peoples as a percentage of the workforce.

Quick Facts

1 in 3 Indigenous tourism businesses are owned by women.

In comparison, only 15.6% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are owned by women, and SMEs employ 89.6% of Canada’s private sector workforce.

Women-owned/led businesses reported average revenue of over
$300K and net assets of almost $400K for 2019.

On average these businesses have been in operation for
10 years and have approximately 7 employees.

13% of Indigenous tourism businesses reported employing youth, elders, and differently abled workers.

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Warrior Women (Jasper, Alberta)

Building Back Better

Investment in Indigenous tourism infrastructure is an investment in jobs for Indigenous peoples, including underrepresented groups, and members of rural and remote communities.

Supply Chain Impact of Indigenous Tourism Infrastructure

Investment in Indigenous tourism infrastructure supports businesses across Canada. 

Indigenous tourism businesses have an extensive supply chain impact beyond their communities. 

These benefits multiply through the chain, supporting a wide range of businesses and suppliers.


Example:
Based on a sample of three Accommodations operations, supply chain data in 2019 showed the Operating Expenditures of the three hotels totaled almost $50M and supports over 1000 different suppliers.

Number of Suppliers by Region 
*One Hotel Represented*

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Contractors, Entertainment, Technical Services

  • Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, Maintenance, Waste and Recycling, Water Management, Laundry and Janitorial, Plumbing and Heating

  • Professional Services, Education and Training Providers, Security Services and Supplies, Health and Safety

  • Entertainment, Equipment Rentals, Event Management, Guest Services

  • Marketing and Communications, Office Supplies, Mail and Shipping, Printing and Promotional Items, Staffing and Recruitment, Telecommunications 

Food & Beverage

  • Alcohol and Beverage, Supplies Food Supplies

Operational Supplies & Equipment

  • Fuel, Lighting, Parts and Equipment, Uniforms

  • Hotel Equipment and Supplies, Kitchen Supplies, Office Supplies

Utilities 

  • Telecommunications, Energy Services, Waste and Recycling, Water Management

Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment 

  • Hotel Furnishings, Kitchen Equipment, Restaurant Furniture

Miscellaneous 

  • Association Fees, Community Investments, Licensing and Permitting

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Breakdown of spend on each supplier by category

Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre (Little Current, Ontario)

Building Back Better

Investment in Indigenous tourism infrastructure will have a multiplying effect through the supply chain, benefitting thousands of local businesses across Canada.

     Investment in Indigenous Tourism Infrastructure is an Investment in the Community and a Pledge to Advance Canada’s 2030 Commitment to UN SDGs

An investment in Indigenous tourism is an investment in the community.

Of the approximately 50 businesses surveyed, Indigenous tourism operators reported contributions of
$5.8M to community investments in:

  • Community Athletics and Sports

  • Health Infrastructure and Community Wellness

  • Festival and Fairs

  • Art, Music, and Theatres

  • Service Clubs and Non-Profit Agencies

  • Educational Support and Literacy

  • Community Infrastructure

Revenue from Indigenous tourism infrastructure, generated from hotels and casinos, provides funding for Indigenous-led programs and outreach to address issues such as addiction, mental health, transportation, housing and additional community services. 

 

Revenue also funds improvements to community infrastructure like water pumps to provide clean, safe drinking water for the community or roadways to secure food supply routes.

 
One Indigenous tourism operator reported a contribution of more than
$30 million each year to 6 Indigenous Nation partner communities.

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Kluskap Ridge RV & Campground (Englishtown, Nova Scotia)

Investment in Indigenous tourism infrastructure is a tangible step towards reconciliation, resulting in economic benefits across Indigenous communities. 

Beyond the economic benefits of supporting Indigenous tourism, investment in air transportation infrastructure plays an important role in supplies for the community, food security and medically-related travel.  

Maintaining and investing in runways is critically important to the Indigenous tourism industry, this infrastructure also backstops the necessities of life for rural and remote communities in the Northern and Arctic regions.

PAL Aerospace, PAL

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Air Borealis (Newfoundland and Labrador)

The Indigenous tourism sector also advances Canada’s 2030 commitments to UN SDGs by improving the socio-economic standing of Indigenous peoples through employment and supporting the revitalization of Indigenous culture.

ITAC has identified the following SDGs that it can actively and directly contribute towards, as follows:

SDG 1: Eliminate Poverty
SDG 3: Good Health & Well Being
SDG 4: Quality Education
SDG 5: Gender Equality
SDG 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth
SDG 9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
SDG 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities
SDG 12: Responsible Consumption
SDG 14: Life Below Water
SDG 15: Life on Land
SDG 17: Partnerships for Goals

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Aurora Village (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories)

Investment in Indigenous Tourism Infrastructure Supports the Government of Canada’s Priorities for Recovery

Research found that investment in Indigenous tourism infrastructure aligns with the Government of Canada’s priorities in four key areas:
 

Advancing reconciliation and the commitment to strengthening resilience in Indigenous communities

Growing tourism in rural and remote communities

Increasing the number of market-ready businesses

Promoting inclusivity 


Four Recommendations Aligned with ITAC’s  Building Back Better  Strategy:

  1. Indigenous tourism is an investment in strong, adaptable small and large-scale businesses, as well as an investment in jobs for Indigenous people and support of the Canadian supply chain. Recapitalizing Indigenous tourism infrastructure will avoid stranded assets and unlock economic recovery and growth. 

  2. While recognizing the needs may vary depending on business size, we recommended access to fiscal supports be enhanced for Indigenous tourism operators. Measures could range from direct investment of SMEs to enhancing access to low- cost long-term debt for larger Indigenous tourism operators.

  3. We encourage all levels of government and industry partners to support ITAC’s Indigenous-led Building Back Better strategy for recovery, an investment of ~ $65 million over 3 years. Increased funding to ITAC could support program delivery ranging from focusing on sector development to incentivizing group bookings to patron Indigenous tourism properties / experiences.

  4. Indigenous tourism thrives because of its commitment to fostering an inclusive culture. We advocate for increased support for Indigenous economic agencies to collaborate on initiatives that foster an inclusive culture and break down barriers for Indigenous women and Indigenous LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. 

Methodology

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada engaged tourism operators across Canada between November 2 to November 29 in the Invest in Our Future initiative.

All provinces and territories and all business service types were engaged. Approximately 50 Indigenous tourism operators across Canada responded.   

The data was compounded with the findings of the Conference Board of Canada’s Impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s Indigenous Tourism Sector report and data ITAC collected on over 650 Indigenous tourism operators between October 2020 and April 2021.

Resources

Conference Board of Canada. (2019). Canada’s Indigenous Tourism Sector. Insights and Economic Impacts.
Web Link 

Conference Board of Canada. (2021). The Impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s Indigenous Tourism Sector: 2021 Update.
Web Link 

Government of Canada. (2020). SME Profile: Ownership Demographics Statistics.
Web Link 

Government of Canada. (2018). Aboriginal Lands of Canada Legislative Boundaries. 
Web Link 

Statistics Canada. Rural Data Viewer.  
Web Link 

Statistics Canada. Table 18-10-0005-01 Consumer Price Index, Annual Average, Not Seasonally adjusted.
Web Link 

Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0366-01 Employment by Indigenous Group and Industry (x 1,000).
Web Link 

Statistics Canada. Table 36-10-0234-02 Tourism Gross Domestic Product, Current Prices (x 1,000,000).
Web Link 

Statistics Canada. Table 36-10-0232-01 Employment Generated by Tourism (x 1,000).
Web Link