Vancouver International Airport has signed a memorandum of understanding with Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC), promising to develop a sustainable Indigenous tourism industry and raise awareness of B.C.’s diverse regions.
The partnership will also help improve connections among First Nations communities and organizations and the tourism industry.
Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of YVR, said that prior to COVID-19, Indigenous tourism was the fastest growing sector of tourism in Canada.
“It represents a tremendous opportunity for economic growth, for job creation and for sustainability in communities right across the province, as well as an opportunity for us to pursue our collective goals of reconciliation for Canadian tourists and international tourists alike,” she said.
As part of their new partnership, YVR and ITBC unveiled a new interactive kiosk at the airport.
The goal of the kiosk is to inspire travellers to experience B.C. through an Indigenous lens, said Brenda Baptiste, the chair of ITBC’s board.
“We really want to introduce our B.C. residents, our international travellers and our travellers that are coming through (YVR) to the richness, the cultural richness, of this province and the Indigenous experiences that they may or may not know about,” she said.
The kiosk works in conjunction with ITBC’s app, which allows people to learn whose territory they are in and what experiences are there, Baptiste said.
The tourism industry was significantly impacted by COVID-19 and Indigenous communities – many of which aren’t yet welcoming back visitors – are also expected to suffer severe pandemic impacts, ITBC said.
According to ITBC – which represents hundreds of Indigenous businesses across B.C. – 91 per cent of its stakeholders had to close or operate in a limited capacity while 74 per cent of businesses had to lay off employees.
Furthermore, lack of access to some rural areas, lower interest in Indigenous cultural experiences or changing travel patterns due to COVID-19, mean that businesses that are open still won’t be able to earn enough from B.C. travellers to replace the lost revenues from Canadian and International visitors.
According to ITBC, the memorandum of understanding focuses on collaboration, including opportunities for Indigenous communities and entrepreneurs in the tourism industry to work together, data and knowledge sharing, and leveraging market intelligence.
YVR previously signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada last year, and signed a sustainability and friendship agreement with Musqueam Indian Band in 2017.