Thursday, March 31, 2016

‘Aiming’ for the Future of Indigenous Tourism in Canada

Having worked in the Indigenous Tourism Industry in Canada for over 19 years, Canadian Ecotourism Services (CES)’s CEO, Clinton Belcher created an innovative approach that combines new age technology with grassroots cultural entrepreneurs. This idea has more of less been an approach that CES has recommended to their clients for a long time, however the addition of new technologies has taken it to the next level.

Here’s some background on the concept…

Retention of culture has become an issue for many indigenous communities throughout the world and there is a critical need for opportunities and innovative models to integrate culture into community life. The tourism industry presents a unique opportunity to preserve culture and educate visitors about the rich culture, history and traditions of the past, present and future.

CES’s Pando Terra™ model represents the root for sustainable community development by way of community initiatives and projects’ encouraging community advancement, and allowing for true grassroots growth to take place. Pando Terra™ is an organic process of economic development in harmony with cultural traditions.  Rather than focusing on tourism development as a catalyst for growth, tourism will develop naturally as a secondary outcome of a solid community platform. People will want to know more about the community and learn about the people and their culture. This has led to an increased demand for entrepreneurial programming support, leading to the need for controlled growth and well thought out marketing and development strategies.

This becomes the kind of ‘experiential’ tourism being highlighted throughout Canada; the kind of tourism that has existed in many parts of the world for years, and is branded ’Spontaneous Tourism’ by CES.

Tourists want to experience diverse cultures; to eat, live in, and explore a new place for a short time, and not necessarily participate in any specific ‘tourist’ activity. The importance of the need to support the community first before commercializing the culture needs to remain the priority.  Pando Terra™ supports this model and promotes responsible sharing of culture and product offerings.

The Cultural Entrepreneur…

Many Indigenous communities already have passionate individuals in their communities that enjoy sharing their culture and knowledge with visitors. These community members can be storytellers, guides, fishermen, artists, singers, dancers, wood carvers, artisans, cooks, and more!

However, these particular individuals may not have their own business and are unaware of how to market themselves and reach out to potential visitors. So there is a large communication gap and missed business opportunities in each community.

Creating ‘packaged moments’…

This led CES to creating a model that celebrates individual Cultural Entrepreneurs under one community platform, known as the Authentic Indigenous Moments (AIM™) Model. The main objective is to empower local community members to share their culture and do what they are passionate about, whether it is guided experiences on the land to learn traditional survival skills, how to make the best bannock, or sitting around a fire telling stories and legends of the past. The community has individuals that are looking for these types of opportunities, however many are overwhelmed with the process of starting their own business. This approach allows cultural entrepreneurs to share their knowledge, skills and passion with visitors.

The purpose of the AIM™ is:
  • To create a clear tourism identity
  • To create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities
  • To provide a centralized web portal for visitors
  • To create mobile connections between the visitors and their hosts
  • To maximize marketing activities

Use a Digital Destination Strategy…

The use of an interactive web platform is vital to the success of this approach. A community has the opportunity to promote their tourism experiences through a centralized node that is accessible on all devices such as desktop computers, mobile and tablet devices. A great feature for this approach is that visitors also can navigate the different tour options, write reviews, and book online with ease. Each Cultural Entrepreneur is featured on the site, so that the potential visitor can begin to develop a relationship with this individual and learn about them before even meeting them in person. It is a self-regulating system that is based on reviews, which places pressure on each entrepreneur to be a great host to visitors.

Some of the benefits of AIM™ include:
  •  Creates personalized, high quality, independent cultural tourism activities for the region
  • Acts as an incubator to encourage entrepreneurs
  • Offers additional income to community members
  • Provides additional marketing services for the region, the communities and its existing businesses
  • Provides a ‘one stop shop’ for visitors wanting to visit the region

All and all, this project offers amazing benefits to the community using a low impact and cost-effective approach. For more information on AIM™ and how to get started contact us at