(November 7, 2013) - Mr. Speaker, tourism is a vital industry here in the Northwest Territories. Of all sectors, tourism presents the greatest likelihood of creating economic opportunities in each Region, especially in the smaller communities. This is especially true of our Aboriginal tourism sector. Through the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, the Government of the Northwest Territories has been working with the Aboriginal Tourism Champions Advisory Council to advance and develop Aboriginal tourism in the NWT.
This week at the NWT Tourism Conference and Annual General Meeting, the Council will publicly launch its recommendations for the Aboriginal Tourism Strategy and Action Plan – a recommendations report that I will be tabling later today. I am happy to share the highlights of these recommendations with all Members.
The Aboriginal Tourism Champions Advisory Council is the lead organization responsible for overseeing the planning, product development and promotional initiatives and implementation of the Aboriginal Tourism Framework Strategy. The Council includes Aboriginal people with a passion for tourism, representing the diversity of Aboriginal cultures in the Northwest Territories. I want to thank the Council members Ms. Ria Letcher and Ms. Jenni Bruce, our co-chairs, Mr. Grant Beck, Mr. Knute Hansen, Ms. Peggy Jay, Mr. Doug Lamalice, Mr. Margaret Nazon, Mr. Moise Rabesca, Ms. Judith Wright-Bird, Ms. Karen Wright-Fraser; and Mr. Richard Zieba for bringing us one-step closer to making Aboriginal tourism a viable sector in the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Speaker, the Council has recommended increasing awareness and support for Aboriginal tourism among Aboriginal communities, organizations and governments. They have recommended improving skills for Aboriginal businesses involved in the tourism industry.
They want to see us make full use of youth and Elders’ involvement in tourism. They have recommended that we promote Aboriginal culture and language through tourism.
The value of developing the Aboriginal tourism sector is not just about additional revenue and jobs at the local level. During the time the Council spent talking to people to develop these recommendations, many said that the true value of developing this sector is in revitalizing and invigorating a sense of pride in Aboriginal culture and traditions.
Communities are already benefiting from visitor interest in authentic Aboriginal tourism experiences. For example, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment worked with the community of Deline to organize a familiarization tour with a group of travel wholesalers. The visitors were impressed with the experiences available there and have made plans to visit Deline next year with other groups.
We are going to take action to grow Aboriginal tourism in our territory. The need for input from various other departments, agencies and Aboriginal organizations is noted in the report, so the next step we are taking now is to discuss these recommendations with them.
These discussions will take place through this winter and next spring, and on the basis of the feedback received, we will draft a comprehensive strategy outlining how we can develop and promote Aboriginal tourism in the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work with communities, the Aboriginal Tourism Champions Advisory Council, and other Government of the Northwest Territories departments to ensure a prosperous Aboriginal tourism industry, which will help to ensure a diversified and healthy economy that provides all regions and communities with opportunities and choices.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.