August 15, 2009

Aboriginal tourism in British Columbia

B.C.'s First Nations welcome the world

Baby boomers are now joining international travellers in exploring the province's aboriginal-based attractions

By Ted Davis
International travellers have a long tradition of fascination with the first nations aspects of life, culture and history in British Columbia. Now, domestic tourists are making the same sort of discoveries at an increasing number of aboriginal-based attractions around the province.

This is, in no small part, fuelled by the drive to kick-start the aboriginal tourism sector into high gear as the 2010 Olympics approaches. Assembled and organized under the Aboriginal Tourism BC banner, these first nations enterprises are growing in economic strength and numbers.

For instance, there are about 200 aboriginal-owned and operated tourism companies throughout B.C. at present, and at least another 65 new tourism products are in the works, says ATBC.

"It is our aboriginal tourism blueprint strategy that really sets us apart from others around the world," says Brenda Baptiste, an executive with ATBC. "We initially based our strategy on the Australia and New Zealand aboriginal tourism models, but now they sometimes turn to us for advice. We are probably the most organized aboriginal tourism body in the world."
Some of BC's attractions:St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino

It's not easy to find benefits in the legacy of the residential school system that was imposed on Canada's aboriginal population. But the aboriginal operators of the St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino have managed to do just that, converting an abandoned mission school near Cranbrook/Kimberley into a high-end resort property.

Haida Heritage Centre

As one of the world's top repositories of ancient aboriginal cultural relics, the Queen Charlotte Islands--better known by some as Haida Gwaii--are nearly without peer. Now, a new cultural interpretive centre has been built to lend important context and historical background to the first nations antiquities at Haida Gwaii, within the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.

Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre

For visitors to Whistler and the Sea to Sky Corridor, it is too easy to forget that these were once the lands in which the Squamish and Lil'wat first nations lived, worked and developed a rich coast mountain culture. Tourists will now get a wonderful new reminder of that at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, which is located adjacent to the Four Seasons Resort Whistler and Fairmont Chateau Whistler, just steps from Whistler village.

Mascot Gold Mine Tours

Rising nearly straight up from the lush floor of the Similkameen Valley in south central B.C. are the walls of rock above the tiny town of Hedley. Clinging to that rock face some 1,000 metres up is the small wooden building at the mouth of once productive Mascot Mine--now the site of one of B.C.'s most innovative aboriginal attractions.

Nk'Mip Cellars

North America's first aboriginal-owned and operated winery receives fruit from some of the oldest vines in the Okanagan, originally planted in 1968. This maturity has resulted in more than 50 international wine awards for Nk'Mip Cellars since opening in 2002.
Comment:  For more on Native tourism, see and Things to See in Oklahoma.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

Cutting-Edge Tourism: Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia Educates and Preserves

Eight major cultural centers, numerous art galleries, museums, canoe voyages, wineries, hotels, golf courses and—yes—even casinos.

All are ample evidence that First Nations’ art, culture and businesses are flourishing in British Columbia. This success is due in large part to the Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia (ATABC), a nonprofit, proactive organization founded in 1996.

Native tourism in British Columbia has been booming. In 2006, the tourist sector earned a total of $20 million; by 2011, total annual income had more than doubled, to $42 million, among 60 businesses. This is considerably greater than in other Canadian provinces.

“While the economy in general is struggling, we are seeing healthy growth,” said Keith Henry, ATABC’s chief executive officer. “We have 60 [member companies], but there are another 240 potential businesses located in every corner of the province that we are encouraging. We are fortunate that British Columbia has one of the richest Native cultures in the world, with incredible diversity.”