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COAST SALISH TERRITORY (Vancouver, BC) –  June 18, 2020 – Conference Board of Canada research conducted in partnership with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), shows that, compared to 2019, Canada’s Indigenous tourism sector will experience a 65.9 percent decline in direct GDP (down to $555 million) and a 59.4 percent decline in employment (down to 14,624 jobs) in 2020, due to COVID-19 and the global tourism industry grinding to a halt. These findings reflect the perspectives and business realities of Indigenous tourism operators who participated in a recent wide-scale survey of the sector. 

This is in stark contrast to 2019 when over 36,000 people worked in the Indigenous tourism sector, and its direct economic contribution exceeded $1.6 billion in GDP.  The Conference Board of Canada research estimates that around 714 Indigenous businesses could be at risk of closure in 2020-2021.  

“Since COVID-19 first hit the tourism industry across Canada, we had no doubt the negative impacts would be devastating to our Indigenous tourism operators, as it has been for all tourism operators across Canada,” says Keith Henry, ITAC’s President and CEO.  “While working with the Federal Government on Indigenous-led financial solutions, we knew it was important to invest in research even if it proves our greatest fears.”

Earlier this month, ITAC also released a four-year, $50 million Strategic Recovery Plan with the goal to respond, recover and rebuild the Indigenous tourism industry across Canada to levels experienced in 2019 by 2024.  The Indigenous tourism sector in Canada comprises at least 1,699 businesses and up until 2020, was showing a robust and positive growth trajectory, outpacing the overall Canadian tourism sector.

“We are pleased that over 500 Indigenous operators responded to the Conference Board of Canada’s bilingual survey.  The biggest concerns by members are on how long disruptions from COVID-19 will last and the enormous loss of revenues as a result,” says Henry.  “Our focus continues to be on Indigenous-led solutions to mitigate business closures so that the tourism industry across Canada continues to have a diverse range of authentic, high-quality Indigenous tourism experiences which we know from past research is in high demand globally.”

“What our research suggests is that adaptability and a phased approach will be needed to accommodate the different needs, time horizons and safety requirements of the diversity of Indigenous experience providers across Canada,” says Adam Fiser, Associate Director with The Conference Board. “Listening to communities, and working with their members and businesses will be fundamental to recovery and renewal.”    

The Conference Board of Canada’s research can be viewed here.