TIAC Tourism Congress 2021 - Supporting Rural and Indigenous Tourism

indigenous tourism rural tourism tourism infrastructure development Dec 03, 2021
Coast Salish Totem Poles remind us to collaborate with our Indigenous Tourism operators

We're “LIVE” from Ottawa this week at Canada’s national TIAC Tourism Congress 2021! - and if being together in one big room were not enough to celebrate, it's been so wonderful reconnect with and meet many new champions of our Canadian tourism industry. After 2 days of lively speakers and panels, the message is clear: our industry has suffered greatly but we have the collective will, strength, creativity – and government support – to pull through this together and build back better than ever.   

One thing is certain: we need to shore up the tourism infrastructure that we have. And we also need new blood, new entrepreneurs, new investment. We need more rural infrastructure and we need more Indigenous experiences to draw local, regional, domestic - and eventually international visitors - farther afield, with wider distribution throughout our amazing rural and remote destinations. And everywhere, we need deeper engagement with these places and the people of these places.   

So many ideas came to mind as I took in the conference: we are getting good at importing ‘local’ products into our hotels and restaurants, but what it we ‘exported’ our guests out to our favourite but not-typically-visited neighbouring town? What if specific urban hotels partnered with and ‘sponsored’ a secondary or tertiary hamlet, town or community as a special 'town and country' collaboration, with packages and special itineraries built that take visitors in the city out on a little road trip – or even an overnight excursion?  What if we helped our rural and remote communities produce virtual tours that are available to the major gateway city hotel guests – I’m thinking Ottawa, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto – airport and hotel brands could sponsor the production of these virtual tours and generate future interest in actual travel but immediate revenues for those far flung communities in the meantime. 

If we want to 'redistribute' our tourism visitors and create more sustainable tourism destinations across Canada, we need to focus on getting some new and motivating infrastructure and experiences out into rural and remote. 

The opportunities are boundless. The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada said it well by encouraging all of us to look to our rural and remote neighbors – to get to know each other, spark some collaboration and create some new tourism experiences that enrich us all.