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Indigenous Tourism BC releases five-year plan

Strategy aims to support growth in Indigenous economies, increase capacity and competitiveness of Indigenous businesses
Salmon n' Bannock owner Inez Cook expanded last year to open a second restaurant, at YVR | Rob Kruyt

Indigenous Tourism BC has released its five-year corporate strategy for 2023-2027 - a document that aims to uplift Indigenous tourism in B.C. beyond where it was before the pandemic.

Interest in Indigenous tourism has been on the rise. 

Last year Inez Cook opened her second Salmon n' Bannock location, at YVR. That is the city's only Indigenous-owned restaurant chain that on a full-time basis serves Indigenous food.

Dubbed Salmon n' Bannock on the fly, the fast-food airport location has been a success, Cook told BIV earlier this month. She said her main restaurant at 1128 West Broadway is also very busy. People often have to make reservations weeks in advance.

No future Salmon n’ Bannock restaurants are planned, however.

“I'm pretty busy right now,” she said. “There’s no time.”

The newly released ITBC strategy is committed to renewed partnerships, organizational structure and will focus on key areas to create a healthy, sustainable and prosperous Indigenous cultural tourism sector.

"It is time to strengthen our roots and branches to support Indigenous stakeholders, and our partners, to take bigger steps forward, including building reconciliation and stewardship,” said ITBC chair Brenda Baptiste.

The document notes that since 2019, there have been some significant changes in B.C., including:

  • In 2019, The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Acts (Declaration Act) was unanimously passed by the BC Legislative Assembly;
  • In March 2020, the pandemic hit, at a time when Indigenous Tourism was about to outpace non-Indigenous tourism;
  • In May 2021, the Kamloops Indian Residential School findings were announced; and
  • In March 2022, the first Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act action plan was presented to create a better future for all generations to come.

These events have generated more interest in Indigenous wellness and Indigenous tourism experiences, growing interest in tourism from Indigenous communities, and increased investment from federal and provincial governments, according to the ITBC.

Dubbed Strengthening Our Roots and Branches: Corporate Strategy 2023-2027, the new strategy seeks to achieve goals across four key areas of focus: leadership and organizational innovation, partnership and special projects, experience development, and marketing.

The plan is supported by a $30 million investment over five years from multiple partners.

ITBC is continuing to look for and secure funding opportunities to address unfunded core budget items and project activities to solidify long-term financial security for ITBC, the organization said.

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