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Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport Supports Indigenous Tourism Businesses Through Recovery

Press Release

$5 million in non-payable relief grants delivered to 140 Indigenous tourism operators across the province through BC Indigenous Tourism Recovery Fund

Coast Salish Territories / Vancouver, BC: Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC), in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport, has delivered $5 million through the BC Indigenous Tourism Recovery Fund to support 140 Indigenous tourism operators across the province. Funding has helped mitigate the impacts of the global pandemic and bridge businesses towards a recovery plan, as well as maintain or create nearly 1,200 jobs.

While many companies have been impacted by COVID-19, Indigenous businesses have faced additional economic barriers resulting from difficulty accessing funding and operating in remote locations. Following a recommendation by the Tourism Task Force to introduce a dedicated program that meets the needs of these operators, ITBC and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport launched the BC Indigenous Tourism Fund, which offered non-repayable grant contributions of up to $45,000 for Indigenous businesses across BC.

“Indigenous tourism was the fastest growing part of the tourism industry in BC before the pandemic and we’re determined to enable the businesses to flourish even further,” says Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. “Through these grants we are demonstrating reconciliation in action and ensuring people working in Indigenous tourism businesses can share their culture and love for the land with visitors for years to come.”

With $5 million delivered to date, the program has enabled Indigenous tourism operators to remain solvent, implement health and safety measures, and shift services online. The number of businesses that applied for funding exceeded ITBC’s expectations, with 140 applications approved. Vancouver Island businesses submitted the majority of applications, followed by Northern BC and Vancouver, Coast & Mountains. Businesses in the accommodations sector represented the most applications received, and the most funding allotted, with the arts and culture sector a close second.

“Indigenous tourism businesses have shown so much strength and resilience throughout this pandemic,” says Brenda Baptiste, chair of Indigenous Tourism BC. “These grants give them the confidence to keep going and empower operators to adapt their businesses to meet the challenges. I’m thankful to the Province for this important partnership.”

For example, Talaysay Tours in Vancouver has used its grant to create a virtual tour that guides people remotely through Stanley Park. The interactive tour highlights how the local trees and plants of the Pacific Northwest have been harvested by Indigenous people for food, medicine and technology for thousands of years.
“This grant was crucial to finding a way through this pandemic,” says Candace Campo, owner-operator of Talaysay Talking Trees. “It’s given us stability to weather this storm and the certainty to know we will get through this. I’ve had to learn new skills to create this virtual tour and it’s been so rewarding to see people engage remotely.”

Other businesses that have benefitted from funding include Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu, which will channel the grant towards domestic marketing and implementing COVID-19 safety measures within the facility; Swiws Spirit Tours in Osoyoos, which will use the funds to pay for utilities and insurance, marketing and vehicle expenses; and Sasquatch Crossing EcoLodge in Agassiz, which can now purchase protective equipment, pay staff wages, and increase promotions and advertising to attract domestic visitors. To learn more about the program and final reporting breakdown, please visit:  IndigenousBC.com/corporate.

The BC Indigenous Tourism Recovery fund is part of $50 million set aside to implement StrongerBC, the Province’s economic recovery plan. For more information about Indigenous Tourism BC, visit Indigenousbc.com/corporate.

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