Friday, July 19, 2024

Despite a rebound in international demand, Indigenous tourism continues to face challenges

Challenges Faced by Indigenous Tourism Businesses During the Pandemic: A Closer Look at the Impact

The Impact of the Pandemic on Indigenous Tourism in Canada

Running a successful tourism business showcasing the stunning Aurora Borealis in the Northwest Territories, Joe Bailey’s world came crashing down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2018. With borders closed and travel restrictions in place, Bailey’s business, NorthStar Adventures, was left without revenue for two years, relying solely on government funding.

Despite receiving some federal grants, Bailey’s business struggled as the territorial government took over a year to disperse funds to struggling operations. As a result, Bailey was forced to sell almost all his assets, significantly impacting his once-thriving adventure company.

However, as the pandemic restrictions ease and domestic travelers begin to explore the northern lights once again, Bailey is slowly rebuilding his business. Yet, Indigenous tourism businesses like his faced significant barriers accessing government support during the pandemic, despite being disproportionately impacted by travel restrictions and economic chaos.

Internal documents obtained by Canada’s National Observer reveal that the Indigenous tourism industry saw a staggering decline in GDP and employment during the pandemic, far surpassing the overall tourism sector’s losses. Indigenous businesses struggled to meet financial requirements and faced challenges with program applications that excluded many Indigenous-owned businesses.

Keith Henry, president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, highlighted the devastating impact of the pandemic on Indigenous businesses, particularly those in rural and remote locations. Many Indigenous operators, like Bailey, found it challenging to survive the economic turmoil brought on by the pandemic.

Despite the potential for growth in Indigenous tourism, highlighted by one in three international visitors expressing interest in experiencing Indigenous culture, there is a gap in international travelers’ awareness of Indigenous tourism offerings in Canada. This lack of awareness, combined with a lack of meaningful investment from the government, poses a significant hurdle for the industry’s growth.

As the tourism sector looks towards recovery, it is clear that more support and investment are needed to help Indigenous businesses thrive. The industry’s potential for advancing reconciliation and self-determination makes it a priority for government support, but tangible action and investment are crucial for Indigenous tourism to reach its full potential.

Related Articles

Latest Articles

Most Popular