Tourists spend more than $705M a year as they seek to learn more about Indigenous culture, association says
Indigenous tourism businesses are seeing rapid growth in B.C. as more international visitors seek experiences that bring them closer to Canadian culture, the province’s Indigenous tourism association says.
There are more than 200 Indigenous communities in B.C. and more than 400 Indigenous tourism businesses, from guided adventure tours to high-end culinary experiences, according to Indigenous Tourism B.C.
More than $705 million a year is spent on those businesses by visitors keen to find more about First Nations and their cultures, the association says.
“It gives you the opportunity to walk in with an open mind and an open heart to learn, and want to learn who we are as people,” said Frank Antoine with Indigenous Tourism B.C.
Experiences like Dennis Thomas’s Takaya Tours are skyrocketing in popularity.
Thomas tells the story of his Tsleil-Waututh ancestors, where members of the nation hunted, fished and lived for thousands of years, while gliding through the waters of Indian Arm on a canoe.
“This is just another avenue for our people to actually let people know who we are as Tsleil-Waututh people, people of the inlet, and with our rich history here,” said Thomas.
“That’s what makes it so special for me: to actually be that cultural guide, having that in-depth knowledge, having that passion and having that relationship.”
Hotels and lodging are also enjoying the high demand.
At Skwachàys Lodge in downtown Vancouver, rooms decorated with original artwork are already being booked into next summer.
“I think everyone’s looking for an authentic experience, and I think they’re looking for unique, authentic experiences,” said Maggie Edwards, general manager of the hotel.
“I think that Indigenous cultural experiences are among the most unique that you can experience.”