The International Indigenous Tourism Conference is in Manitoba for the first time.
Hosted by the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), the conference will see 1,100 delegates from Canada and around the world gather at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg from Wednesday to Friday. According to organizers, the goal of the event is to showcase different ways of Indigenous cultural expression through tourism.
“In some places, that means a golf course or a hotel, it might mean an outdoor adventure or a restaurant,” said Teresa Ryder, ITAC’s director of partnerships. “We have entrepreneurs and nation-owned businesses that are really a diversity and a collection of experiences.”
Ryder believes that sharing Indigenous experiences through tourism is part of reconciliation.
“In some cases, an Indigenous tourism operator might be the first and only Indigenous person that people meet when they travel in Canada, and it’s important for our operators to carry that story forward to visitors.”
This year is the 10th annual conference, but 2023 is the first time it has been held in Manitoba.
Fredrick Spence, a soapstone carver from Peguis, hosted a workshop during the conference’s first day. He says sharing his work with others from around the world is both therapeutic and empowering.
“The idea is to bring people who want to come into Manitoba and experience an authentic Indigenous workshop,” said Spence. “People are really looking for authentic Indigenous experiences, and that support that we’re getting from ITAC and the tourism market, it feels good when you’re being seen, and you’re being valued.”
Obby Khan, Manitoba’s sport, culture and heritage minister, also made an appearance on Thursday morning. There, he announced $450,000 in funding from the provincial government toward Indigenous Tourism Manitoba. The money will go towards training, development and marketing for Indigenous-owned businesses, as well as a promised Manitoba Indigenous Tourism Conference.
“Investing in Indigenous tourism helps Indigenous-owned businesses create jobs and build capacity to ensure Indigenous Peoples benefit directly,” said Khan. “The Indigenous Reconciliation Initiatives Fund is an example of reconciliation in action, and our government looks forward to the further growth of the Indigenous tourism industry, and the economic and cultural opportunities it will create for Indigenous Peoples.”
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