Monday, October 19, 2015

Press Release for Aboriginal Tourism Ontario - ATO

Aboriginal Tourism Ontario - ATO
Kevin Eshkawkogan
Aboriginal Tourism Ontario
Telephone 1-877-710-3211
or 1-705-377-4425

ATO 2020 Plan – putting Aboriginal Tourism into Focus in Ontario
The time is Now!
Press release

Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Monday, October 19, 2015 — Aboriginal Tourism Ontario (ATO) will be releasing their updated 2020 Plan with promising findings that clearly identify how ATO can manage the future of Ontario’s indigenous tourism for communities, businesses and partners while bolstering the economy with jobs and revenue. But timing is everything!

ATO completed a province-wide stakeholder consultation and support process funded by The Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport this summer that helped ATO gain solid recommendations for launching an independent organization for Ontario’s indigenous tourism sector. “We respectfully engaged our Aboriginal partners, communities, businesses, and champions to be part of this critical step in mobilizing Aboriginal Tourism Ontario” says Kevin Eshkawkogan, CEO of the Great Spirit Circle Trail (GSCT), and one of 4 nominees for TIAO’s 2015 Tourism Champion of the Year Award. Mr. Eshkawkogan has championed the ATO concept since its inception and has been a strong advocate for aboriginal tourism in Ontario. Mr. Eshkawkogan said “The time is now! We have diligently done our homework with limited resources and now is the time to get the support Aboriginal Tourism Ontario requires to help improve the economic era we’re in. We need to put our plan into play – the time is now!”

Why now?  Eshkawkogan says “We have been supporting this grassroots initiative with limited resources since 2008; if ATO is going to work we need to do it right, and not part time with limited resources.  We are experiencing positive growth in the industry and we can’t provide the support our industry deserves without proper investment.  We need Federal and Provincial leadership to recognize our sector’s contribution to the economy by providing financial and political support to an Aboriginal tourism organization that will continue to grow our economy.

Other provinces such as BC have supported the Aboriginal tourism sector with Federal and Provincial investments of $10 million over a period of 5 years and have seen a fantastic return on that investment. This is what ATO wants to do in Ontario – support our communities and grow the Ontario and national economies.”

Eshkawkogan says that “the investment required now and over the next 5 years is small but will yield a major return.  Investing in ATO provides returns that are estimated in the double digits. With Ontario capturing 30% of Canada’s total Aboriginal tourism spending output totalling $1.7 billion this past year, there is an opportunity for our Provincial and Federal Governments to invest into the immediate needs and the long-term execution of the ATO Strategy & Business Plan.”

A recent national research study published by the Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada (ATAC) in 2015 supports Eshkawkogan’s observations. Eshkawkogan added “When you do the math on a return on investment (ROI) with a 1.6% growth annually, Aboriginal tourism will generate over $12 billion for our economy over the next 5 years. And when this investment only requires $6.8 million over those 5 years, it becomes clear why we need to invest in ATO as an independent organization.”

ATO’s 2020 Plan calls for just over $1 million for implementation and management of 5 key initiatives, with immediate priorities such as getting the organization up and running independently and efficiently with an assigned budget and commitment in place.  This is a win-win for our industry partners, businesses and most importantly, Ontarians and Canadians. 

Partnerships and investment are central to the ATO 2020 Plan, having the organization running will make it possible to fully participate in meaningful dialogue and work with our partners; Working with partners such as the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Regional Tourism Organizations (RTOs), and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) to engage with regional and provincial industry leaders is critical to growing the industry for all. Supporting each other helps support the Strategic Framework for Tourism in Ontario.  Working with partners like ATAC will allow us to collaboratively strengthen the national aboriginal tourism industry and national economy.

The Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport has supported GSCT to further grow ATO by funding some of the engagement initiatives that included studies, interviews, completing surveys, attending sponsored webinars, regional workshops and updating of the ATO 2020 strategy and business plan. Mr. Eshkawkogan said “We are very thankful to our partners and communities that helped us with the development of our 2020 plan. This was an important step in helping us understand the needs and priorities of our stakeholders – we did this together and now is the time to support and invest in Aboriginal tourism Ontario.”

ATO wants to work together with industry, communities and partners to build an independent and sustainable entity that will support and increase indigenous tourism in Ontario and Canada.

See below.

ATO - 2020 Strategic Plan Background:

Aboriginal Tourism Ontario 2020 is based on making our province an authentic tourism destination that will attract visitors from within Canada and abroad based on a brand of market ready indigenous tourism products and services. It’s time to make Aboriginal tourism a priority in Ontario by launching and supporting an independent organization that is completely dedicated to positively reshaping our province’s future for indigenous tourism. The time is now!

Our 2020 Strategic Goals are:

  1. Developing Operational Sustainability & Brand Integrity
  2. Building Capacity & Increasing Economic Opportunities
  3. Marketing & Branding Authentic Products & Services
  4. Providing Support for Communities & Entrepreneurs

Our 2020 Vision is built on stakeholders who have overwhelmingly supported a single organization dedicated to building aboriginal tourism in Ontario.  Our collective vision supports an organization that will ‘responsibly develop, market and grow Ontario’s indigenous tourism industry with values and integrity.’ We will ensure our growth adheres to responsible tourism guidelines that promote sustainability, environmental stewardship, innovation and technology.

Our Mission is to assist indigenous communities and entrepreneurs with programs that build capacity to produce high quality products and services. Our success will be guided by the positive impact on our people, the environment and the economy.  For our welcomed visitors and tourists we will ensure that our products and services provide a meaningful and memorable indigenous experience.

Our guiding Principles assist us in gaining organizational sustainability; in utilizing an innovative grassroots approach; in attracting investment & develop partnerships; and implementing ATO 2020 key initiatives.

ATO’s 5 Key Initiatives:
  1. Transition and Launch of ATO Operation
  2. Focus on ATO Rebrand & New Marketing Efforts
  3. Promote and Deliver Capacity Building Programs and Services
  4. Implement and Develop the Authentic Indigenous Moments Program (AIM)
  5. Develop Regional and Provincial Partnerships

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