Keith Henry – the president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada is one of many people who understand the potential for Canadian indigenous tourism. These sentiments were further reinforced during the Whistler Chamber Power Lunch held on July 19, where he affirmed that fostering indigenous tourism will undoubtedly give Whistler a competitive edge over tourism attractions in this country.
During the Power Lunch, Henry also shared a sneak preview into the efforts makes by his organization and other stakeholders to take Whistler’s domestic tourism to a new level. In his presentation, his main focus was the “Path Forward” – a five-year strategic plan released by Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada in 2016.
ITAC’s strategic plan to focus on strengthening indigenous tourism by $300 million and creating close to 40,000 jobs. To achieve this key milestone, Henry notes that presentation is key. We aware that that almost every community has a stereotyped version of their history. In light of this, he further emphases on the need to have the culture presented authentically.
Away from the plan, Henry singled out the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center and sees it as a treasure in Canadian indigenous tourism. Also, the commended the efforts of his predecessors in the tourism sector and their combined efforts with the community that saw this facility celebrate its 10-year anniversary.
Henry sees the Squamish Lil’wat Center and other institutions as the “anchor tenants” of the indigenous tourism sector. In his words, Henry was quoted saying, “Those are the places we know are going to be opened all-year so that we can promote them using different sales channels.”
In attendance was Lil’wat Chief Dean Nelson, Whistler Blackcomb COO Pete Sonntag, and MLA Jordan Sturdy – all on one table. Whistler’s indigenous elders and some members of the community were also in attendance.