Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Transformational Travel: How Indigenous Tourism Can Impact a Traveller’s World View

Photo Credit: Linus Strandholm

Transformational travel is a major trend that has emerged in recent years and is anticipated to become a main factor for tourists when choosing destinations and travel experiences. Indigenous tourism is in an excellent position to take advantage of this new and emerging trend, by providing tourists with meaningful experiences that have the potential to transform and offer a new perspective.

What is Transformational Travel?

The Transformational Travel Council defines transformational travel as any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life. Usually transformational travel consists of moving cultural experiences or nature-based activities that challenge or have a profound impact on the tourist. The transformational travel experience usually consists of 3 components:
  • Traveling with intention, openness, and mindfulness 
  • Engaging in challenging physical and/or cultural experiences 
  • Taking time for personal reflection and meaning-making 

The concept of transformational travel is not new and at its core, it is based on some of the main motivations that individuals have for travelling. People travel to escape the norm of their everyday lives, to experience something new, and to learn about different cultures and environments. Transformational travel has evolved from the concept of experiential travel, which allows tourists to fully immerse themselves in the experience either by active participation or engaging the senses. Using experiential learning in Indigenous tourism is a best practice for the industry and a great way to create a memorable experience for the participant.

Transformational Travel – A Movement, Not a Trend

Transformational travel experiences promote personal growth and challenge a tourist’s normal way of thinking to consider alternate perspectives about their world. Travellers are often pushed outside of their comfort zones to realize deeper meanings in the pursuit of self-actualization. Michael Bennett, one of the founders of the Transformational Travel Council sees transformational travel as a “movement, not a trend,” which in the case of Indigenous tourism, could promote a greater understanding and appreciation of First Nations cultures.

Indigenous Tourism – A Step Towards Reconciliation

Strengthening culture, respecting the environment and stimulating economic growth are all pillars of Indigenous tourism. By providing opportunities for individuals to learn about authentic Indigenous cultures, tourists (and the general public) will begin to understand more about the history, traditions and beliefs of Canada’s First Peoples. This not only is an enlightening experience for the tourist, but a positive step forward on the path to reconciliation.

What does Transformational Travel Look Like?

The evolution of transformational travel has already begun to take hold, and in a big way. The emphasis on ‘authentic’, ‘off-the-beaten-path’, and ‘local experts’ is a prime example of how the global tourism industry has already begun its transformation. Tourists are seeking elevated experiences that cannot be had anywhere else and are looking to add to their personal bank of knowledge. An example of a business offering transformational travel experiences is Huit Huit Tours ( in Cape Dorset, Nunavut offering cultural and nature-based tours.

“With our trips, you’ll discover more than appreciation for the land. You can share in our kinship with the stunning natural arctic environment, and millennia-old Inuit traditions and knowledge. Take a summer sea trip and visit Thule and Tuniit camps along the south Baffin coast. We’ll share the community’s natural traditional knowledge. You’ll marvel at our ancestors' ingenuity and survival skills in this unforgiving arctic environment.”

How You Can Provide Transformational Travel Experiences

Ensure Authenticity – By providing an experience that is a true representation of the region and culture, tourists will be more likely to have an engaging and meaningful experience. If a tourism product (such as a cultural tour or workshop) is staged, tourists will be able to perceive this, and the experience will lose its value. However, each community or nation must decide what is appropriate to share with visitors in order to ensure that the culture is not exploited, and sacred knowledge is respected. Only content deemed appropriate and respectful by the community should be incorporated into Indigenous tourism products.

Listen to Your Clients – Everyone has different motivations for travelling and it is important to tap into what visitors are looking for in a travel experience. Some visitors may want a 6-hour journey out on the land in an effort to connect with nature or some may prefer preparing dinner with locals for a community feast. Ask questions and pay attention to what your clients’ desires are. This can be done by simply having a conversation with your clients, asking customers to fill out a satisfaction survey or by requesting and online review of their experience.

Make Time for Reflection – Ensure that your visitors have a chance to contemplate their experience and the teachings. When creating itineraries, try to incorporate time for personal reflection, exploration and asking questions about the information that is being shared. Reflection can also mean challenging tourists to connect what they are learning to their everyday lives. You can do this by asking questions that provoke thought such as, How can we use this ancient knowledge to create a better world today, for ourselves, our communities and our environment?

Provide Something Unique – People often travel to escape the norm of their everyday lives and experience something new. When creating tourism products, try to offer experiences that are significantly different from your client’s day-to-day life and are unique to your culture. For example, most tourists buy their food at the grocery store and prepare it at home. You could take a visitor out on the land and show them the traditional methods of catching a fish, followed by traditional preparation and cooking. This way, the tourist gets the full experience of that meal and they are gaining valuable knowledge about Indigenous culture.

For more information about how you can incorporate transformational travel into your tourism products and services, contact CES for a free consultation at or 1-877-444-5550.


The Transformational Travel Council:
Transformational Travel Article:
A Guide to Transformational Travel:
ITAC National Guidelines – Indigenous Cultural Experiences:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Chesterfield Inlet Qajaq Program - Opportunities for Youth to Learn About Traditional Culture

Photo Credit: Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

CES currently has the pleasure of working with the community of Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut on the redevelopment of its community economic development plan that aims to create a community-based approach to socio-economic development that respects cultural values and traditions.

We are so thrilled to announce that last week, a group from the local school in Chesterfield Inlet won the Arctic Inspiration Prize of $140,000 for its Qajaq Program. The Qajaq Program looks to engage young people in the revitalization of the region’s rich kayaking history by working with local knowledge keepers to learn how to build and paddle traditional kayaks. CES is pleased to highlight this inspiring community initiative that places value on hands-on experiential learning of traditional skills with a focus on outdoor recreation while also linking Elders and youth.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize is awarded to diverse groups to recognize excellence and encourage teamwork in order to use or expand Arctic knowledge and bring it into action for the benefit of the Canadian Arctic. The motivation behind this prize is to contribute to the future of the Canadian Arctic, its major challenges and opportunities in the face of rapid changes in environment, culture, technology and economy.

Photo Credit: Ana Leishman

Chesterfield Inlet is a remote Inuit community of approximately 400 people on the north-western coast of Hudson Bay. The community still practices and heavily relies on its traditional Inuit culture in modern daily life. Inuit language is spoken widely throughout the community and 75% of residents report Inuktitut as their mother tongue. In the spring on a nice day, you won’t find many people in the community; most will be out on the land hunting caribou, fishing, or gathering food. The residents of Chesterfield Inlet still maintain a strong and admirable connection to their ancient culture and the natural environment.

These strong cultural values are present throughout community and the Qajaq Program is a perfect example of how residents strive to preserve traditional knowledge. Glen Brocklebank a teacher at the local school, helped start the Qajaq Program in 2004. Through this project, the youth of Chesterfield Inlet build hand-crafted qajaqs/kayaks based on the design that was used in the area hundreds of years earlier. After the qajaqs are built, the students embark on a trip where they travel 10 kilometres by sea and land while learning traditional skills from Elders.

Photo Credit: Ana Leishman

Cultural Preservation
Prior to the Qajaq program, kayaks had not been built in the community by anyone. This program represents Indigenous cultural revival at its finest. Teaching young people how to build kayaks like their ancestors used to is a creative way that passes traditional skills on to the next generation.

Hands-On Experiential Learning
The Qajaq Program not only gives students the opportunity to learn about building a traditional kayak, they actually get to participate in its construction. The ability to create something with their own hands while enhancing their craftsmanship skills promotes personal growth on many levels. This is also a unique way to learn about culture, versus reading about it in a book. The students are learning by doing, which is how the area’s original inhabitants gained valuable life skills.

Teamwork & Collaboration
Building a kayak is a big project and students need to work together to accomplish their task. Working together towards a common goal promotes bonding, community cohesiveness and pride.

Photo Credit: Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

Outdoor Recreation
Once the kayaks are built, students hop right in and get the chance to test out their creations. Being on the water and perfecting their kayaking skills allows them to be physically active while connecting with their environment. Simply being outside and engaging in recreation is beneficial for anyone, especially for young people.

Linking Elders & Youth
A crucial component of the Qajaq Program is the inclusion of community Elders who teach the students about Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit or ‘Inuit Traditional Knowledge’. This way, the valuable information that is held by local knowledge keepers is not lost and is passed down and practiced by youth in the community. Elders are able to share their wisdom in order to foster a strong cultural identity amongst young people.

Photo Credit: Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

The Chesterfield Inlet Qajaq Program is an inspiring example of how one northern community has harnessed a desire to revive its cultural past to engage youth in hands-on and environmental education. We at CES admire this holistic program, which embodies sustainable grassroots development.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize funds will go towards building 30 new kayaks, purchasing new dry suits and the students of Chesterfield Inlet will also create a special kayak that can be shipped to other communities as a teaching resource. We hope to see more innovative programs such as this one that engages youth to become active participants in their traditional culture.

If you would like to learn about how you can implement community-based programs that prioritize traditional culture and environmental education in your region, contact us at or call us at 1-877-444-5550.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Celebrating a Great Year for Indigenous Tourism & Community Development Projects Across Canada

Cree Nation of Mistissini

The New Year is always a time for reflection… the CES team wanted to take this as opportunity to thank all of our wonderful clients and partners for making 2017 such a great year. We’ve been involved with a variety of different projects across Canada that focus on Indigenous Tourism Development, Community Development, and cultural preservation.

This particular year was a milestone for CES since we’ve just celebrated our 20th Year in operation.  Here is a message from our CEO, Clinton Belcher sharing the evolution and growth of CES. “I think that we are going to have an impact on a wider reach and I think that it will be National and or International, and that’s by using our methodologies and our system and certainly the word of mouth. I believe we will set a bar for other consultants and firms to work towards for helping indigenous communities prosper.

After 20 years, I really recognize how important our work is. I love coaching and I love advising and being in a mentorship role – I’m really enjoying giving back that way. I feel like it’s philanthropy in a sense, we help communities with incentives to get started, but it’s developing a relationship to help reach goals – I don’t even see it as work.  It’s just what I should be doing.

Every person that comes into my life provides me with a value. I feel that I want to do more and return something to them because of what they have provided me with.” – Clinton Belcher, CEO of CES

We’re excited to showcase all the wonderful projects that we were a part of, this past year. The projects range from Tourism Planning, Product Development, Authentic Indigenous Moments, Coaching & Training Programs, Website Development, Photography & Videography, Architectural Services, Marketing & Branding, Feasibility Studies and Business Plans, and Stakeholder Consultations:

 My Mistissini Moments  & Tourism Website Development– Cree Nation of Mistissini, Quebec

The development of the first community indigenous tourism web platform that embowers Cultural Entrepreneurs to share unique moments with visitors. We also simultaneously developed their new tourism website found at  This project included coaching and training programs, product development, and professional photography.

Feasibility Study for Wiwkwedong Marina & Boat Launch - Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point First Nation, Ontario

Developed a Feasibility Study for a Marina and Boat Launch that included architectural renderings, operational planning, marketing strategies, and product development.

Community Tourism Plan – Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, Ontario

Development of a 5 Year Tourism Strategy that focused on putting the community first, inspiring entrepreneurship and new business creation, and focusing on responsible tourism development. This project included stakeholder consultations and a community tourism workshop.

Operational Marketing Plan - Ritchie Falls Resort, Ontario

Developed an Operational Marketing Plan which included creating a new brand for the business and shifting from consumptive tourism to more ecotourism products and offerings. A new logo, brand, marketing strategy, and look and feel for the business was created as a result.

Website Development - Ritchie Falls Resort, Ontario

A new website for the Ritchie Falls Resort was developed to align with the business’s new brand and product offerings.

Business Plan for Overnight Accommodations – Wahnapitae First Nation, Ontario

The development of a Feasibility Study and subsequent Business Plan was developed for overnight accommodations. This project included architectural renderings & design, an Environmental Assessment & Geotechnical Report, community stakeholder consultations, marketing and branding solutions, as well as financial planning.

 Marketing Plan for the Renovations and Rebrand of Rocky’s Restaurant – Wahnapitae First Nation, Ontario

The development of a marketing strategy and rebrand for Rocky’s Restaurant that was aligned with the new Hotel in the community. This project included architectural renderings, design, and branding concepts for the newly renovated restaurant.

Website Development – Spirit Island Adventures, Ontario

The creation of a new website for Spirit Island Adventures, a luxury teepee glamping business.

Community Website Development / Photography & Videography – Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut

Developed a new community website for the Hamlet of Chesterfield Inlet which included professional photography, branding, and interactive web-based technology.

This project also included the development of a high definition community video that portrayed a glimpse of what life in Chesterfield Inlet is all about.


Website Development and Marketing & Branding – Indigenous Tourism Ontario

The development of a new website and bold brand for ITO to transition from Aboriginal Tourism Ontario to Indigenous Tourism Ontario. This project included updating their logo, website, social media sites, and setting clear goals and budgets for internal and external marketing strategies.

Cultural Authenticity Program – Indigenous Tourism Ontario

The development of a program that pays recognition to businesses offering culturally authentic experiences, and acknowledges them for contributing to their Indigenous heritage in Ontario. This program included capacity building, an awareness campaign, and brand development.

Authentic Indigenous Moments (AIM) Program – Indigenous Tourism Ontario

The creation of the first provincially dedicated grassroots Indigenous tourism initiative that connects “authentic cultural entrepreneurs” directly with visitors through an interactive web platform. This project included an awareness campaign, website development, capacity building, and assistance with development 50 experiences.

Operational Business Plan & Training Program – Mudge’s Fishing Camp, Ontario

The development of a 5 Year Operational Business Plan for the newly purchased Mudge’s Fishing Camp for Seine River First Nation. The fishing camp is set to be launch for the 2018 main fishing season.

CES also assisted with facilitation of a staff training program for the Fishing Camp.

Business Plan for Chiefswood Cultural Heritage Park – Six Nations Tourism, Ontario

The development of a Business Plan for the Revitalization of Chiefswood Park in Six Nations Territory. This project included the creation of new products and service offerings for both visitors and community members, as well as a bold marketing and branding strategy.

Tourism Officer Training Program – Cree Nation of Mistissini, Quebec

Delivered a one year coaching and training program for the Tourism Officer in Mistissini. The program included both onsite and offsite training in a variety of different disciplines in the tourism industry including Marketing & Branding, Product Development, Project Management, Financial Management, Tourism Entrepreneur Business Coaching, Workshop / Presentation development & facilitation, and general tourism business operations.

Digital Storytelling Project – Huu-ay-aht First Nations, BC

Facilitated a training program with the Communications staff in Huu-ay-aht First Nations on the development of a digital storytelling project for their community that focused on cultural preservation and involving the community to share and celebrate stories of the past, present, and future. This project also included a community workshop on digital storytelling.

Community Stakeholder Consultations – City of Campbell River, BC

CES was sub-contracted by Cohlmeyer Architecture to facilitate the community stakeholder consultations for the community’s waterfront development project. The stakeholder consultations had the brand of “Refresh & Inspire” with the goal of providing a space for community members to share their ideas, concepts and proposals for the Waterfront Task Force that focused on how it benefits the community’s social, cultural, environmental, and economic wellbeing.  

Tourism Planning, Stories of our Elders Interpretive Trail, and Arts & Crafts eBoutique – Cree Nation of Nemaska, Quebec

CES updated Nemaska's 2011 Tourism Plan to best reflect changes in the global market, tourism trends, and to best position themselves within the surrounding communities in Eeyou Istchee region in Northern Quebec. We also mapped out their Marketing Plan to allow the community to stand-out from the crowds and establish its own exclusive brand identity. 

The Stories of our Elders project is the first of its kind - an Elders Trail in the community will capture the memories and knowledge of the communities wisest members and transcribe some of these moments on signs and plaques along a walking trail. And finally, the Arts & Crafts eBoutique was developed to sell the community's arts and crafts on an engaging website. A Social Enterprise platform was created to support programs for Youth and encouraging local artists to continue their craft. 

How to Connect with Us:

As you can see it's been a incredible year! For more info on some of our past projects and to find out more about our services contact or visit us at