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June 8, 2022
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territories / Vancouver, BC (June 8, 2022): Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC) and the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains (VCM) region are pleased to announce Tsunaxen, Willie Lewis, as the Indigenous Specialist for the region. Willie will collaborate with Indigenous communities and industry partners to support experience and destination development.
Tsunaxen, Willie Lewis, is a member of the Squamish First Nation and is a cultural performer who shares his extensive knowledge of Squamish cultures and traditions as part of Spakwus Slolem (The Eagle Dancers). An experienced mentor, Willie works to support the removal of barriers to employment and education for Indigenous Peoples. He holds a First Nations Tourism Management diploma from Capilano University.
Willie has proudly served Indigenous Peoples and communities in British Columbia for more than a decade. He has provided management, sales, and customer service support to various Squamish Nation businesses. In addition, Willie has shared his cultural leadership, relationship building, event organization, and community engagement skills to recruit and ensure success for Indigenous students in roles at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology and Capilano University. He also has experience working in the hotel sector.
As the VCM Indigenous Specialist, Willie will apply his expertise and experience towards advancing Indigenous tourism opportunities, primarily by providing responsive and respectful regionally-specific programs, services and projects. He will also grow awareness about the value of Indigenous cultural tourism with partners and organizations across the VCM region and beyond. Destination development and management is a key component of the role, with an overarching goal of helping to grow the tourism aspirations of Indigenous communities.
“We are very excited to have Willie join the ITBC team as Indigenous Specialist for the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains tourism region,” says Brenda Baptiste, ITBC Board Chair. “The role Willie is stepping into is a very important one for the communities in this region. His work experience, leadership skills and strong ties to Indigenous communities have all come together to set him up for success in this position.”
“I had the pleasure of meeting Willie recently and I know he’s going to do an outstanding job in this role,” says Karen Tunkara, Destination BC’s Director of Indigenous & Regional Partnerships. “Willie’s a skilled communicator with extensive experience. We’re looking forward to working with Willie to advance the important work underway with Indigenous communities and industry partners in the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region.”
The Regional Indigenous Specialist program spans the VCM, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, Northern BC, Vancouver Island and Thompson Okanagan regions. Each specialist is responsible for connecting Indigenous communities in their areas to tourism development opportunities identified in their regional strategies.
About Indigenous Tourism BC
Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC) is a non-profit, Stakeholder-based organization committed to growing and promoting a sustainable, culturally rich Indigenous tourism industry. Through training, information resources, networking opportunities and cooperative marketing programs, ITBC is a resource for Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities in BC who are operating or looking to start a tourism business. ITBC works closely with tourism, business, education and government organizations to help BC’s Indigenous tourism businesses offer quality experiences and actively promote these experiences to visitors and local residents. Learn more about Indigenous Tourism BC.
About Vancouver, Coast & Mountains Tourism Region
Vancouver, Coast & Mountains (VCM) regional representatives work collaboratively with partners throughout the region, to connect industry to various programs available through Destination BC. Managed under Destination BC, the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region expands outwards from Metro Vancouver along three main arteries: the Sunshine Coast, the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, as well as the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon, which are both anchored by the Fraser River. It connects to the Gold Rush Trail up the Fraser Canyon and to the Highway 3 Corridor through Hope and Manning Park. The region is home to the internationally-renowned destinations of Vancouver and Whistler, rich agricultural areas like the Fraser Valley and Pemberton, and small villages, towns and rural areas, such as the Bridge River Valley, Bowen Island, and Desolation Sound. Learn more about Vancouver, Coast & Mountains.
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