Nfld. & Labrador

New Indigenous tourism strategy for N.L. to showcase culture, history

The five-year strategy, launched by the Newfoundland and Labrador Indigenous Association, aims to not only boost visitor numbers, but offer unique experiences.

5-year strategy aims to boost visitors, and offer unique experiences

Newfoundland and Labrador's Indigenous Tourism Association members, at the group's soft launch of its new strategy, from left, Andrea Keats, Jill Larkham and Pete Barrett. (Submitted by Jill Larkham)

A new five-year strategy is underway to showcase Indigenous tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The goal is to help Indigenous communities prosper, while also promoting and preserving the culture and history through storytelling and other approaches. 

"It's all about working with our communities and businesses to preserve our culture and history by taking our stories and sharing them with the world because I think the world really needs to hear our stories," said Jill Larkham, who worked on the tourism strategy.

"We're really excited that the soft launch for Labrador happened exactly two years to the date since the first forum. All of our planning happened here, we all met together as a steering committee for the development of the strategy, so we were all super-excited."

The Newfoundland and Labrador Indigenous Association launched its strategy earlier this month, and Larkham is looking forward to the potential outcomes. 

"It's not about the numbers for us, it's making sure that we can work with stakeholders to build tourism on their terms, and a lot of times our communities don't want to see big numbers of people coming in," she said.

"I see this association playing a big role for us."

The demand is there

Just this week, some tourism operators in British Columbia spoke about the still-reverberating positive effects of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. 

Other provinces, too, are making Indigenous tourism a priority.

In October, the president of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada said there had been a surge in demand for Indigenous experiences across the country. 

Speaking at the World Indigenous Business Forum in Vancouver, which attracted about 500 people from around the world, Keith Henry said it's on the rise. 

Keith Henry, president of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, says more needs to be done to build capacity for Indigenous-led tourism operators. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Henry said Indigenous tourism in Canada had grown by $300 million from 2014 to 2017 to a total of $1.7 billion, and saw an increase of about 7,000 jobs. While tourism overall grew by 14 per cent, Indigenous tourism grew by 23 per cent. 

He said what was especially crucial to keep pace was to build capacity to meet demand.

"These experiences need to be telling the truth about culture," he said in October. "It can't be contrived and it can't be Disneyfied."

'Possibilities are endless'

Larkham said she thinks the appeal of Labrador is partly because of its rugged beauty. 

The Newfoundland and Labrador Indigenous Tourism Association had a soft launch for its five-year tourism strategy earlier this week. (Submitted by Jill Larkham)

"People are looking for experiences where they can connect with people and learn something new. So all of our programming is like experiences that are around people-based programming," she said. 

"I think the possibilities are endless. And I think this association will really help push it to the forefront."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

 

With files from Janice Goudie and Maryse Zeidler