Indigenous tourism and social and environmental entrepreneurship

Canada

In Canada we did not pursue a single case study, but rather examined an aboriginal tourism network, which has recently developed in British Columbia. A key problem that many indigenous tourism enterprises face is scale and location. Most are small, undercapitalised ventures in remote areas with little means to develop tourist markets or infrastructure. For tourists, such destinations typically represent just one stop on a longer journey. The problem for these enterprises becomes one of not only raising their profiles, but also of defining themselves as unique and complementary destinations on multi-sited tourist itineraries. Networking to share information and leverage economies of scale can help enormously in achieving these ends.

The Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia is a non-profit, membership-based organization committed to developing and promoting "a sustainable, culturally rich Aboriginal tourism industry." By joining AtBC, Canadian First Nations enterprises can help put their operations 'on the map' in meaningful relation to other enterprises and destinations. AtBC encourages collaboration, coordination, and capacity building among its members. In April 2013, the Association co-hosted, with the Osoyoos Indian Band of the Okanagan Nation, a major National conference on aboriginal tourism opportunities with more than 200 delegates and other participants from First Nations and the tourism field. The annual conference features presentations, workshops, and networking opportunities. AtBC also works directly with its members and industry representatives to develop itineraries for tourists which enable members - even small and remote enterprises--to capture part of the tourism market, while avoiding duplication. In addition AtBC employs a media specialist and hosts web-based 'toolkit' to provide information on 'how Aboriginal tourism is revitalizing culture throughout British Columbia, and how Aboriginal experiences can be easily added to visitor experiences.' It seems clear that such association can play a vital networking, bridging, and capacity building role in organizing the unique diversity of indigenous enterprises for success in the highly competitive and ever evolving tourist industry.

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