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ESTC 2011 Sonya Graci, Ryerson University, Aboriginal Tourism in Canada


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Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) ( presentation by Sonya Graci, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University - "Assessing the Potential …

Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) ( presentation by Sonya Graci, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University - "Assessing the Potential for Aboriginal Ecotourism in Canada" - presented in September 2011. Organized by The International Ecotourism Society (, the ESTC is a unique annual conference providing practical solutions to advance sustainability goals for the tourism industry.

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  • here is strong market potential for both domestic and international tourist interest in Aboriginal tourism.
  • Development is supported by tourist’s strong desires to experience Aboriginal culture and nature, as reported by Kutzner et al. (2009) in relation to an assessment of the market for Aboriginal products in Northern British
  • 100% indicated that they would be open to Aboriginal tourism development 40% indicated they would prioritize Aboriginal ecotourism over the development of any other form of industry … 17% indicated they already had an aboriginal ecotourism product in their communityDifferent from previous studies that indicated that Aboriginals do not find aboriginal tourism lucrative SeasonalityLack of exposure to best practicesLow wages
  • Also need to train the workforce and get them excited and integrated Many leave for months at a time to hunt on land
  • The lodge is run as a not for profit with all proceeds either invested back into the lodge or re-invested in the community.
  • The MoCreebec Aboriginal tribe decided to invest community funds and open the Cree Village Ecolodge in the year 2000. The ecolodge has served as a means of bringing tourists to the community which has created a tourism-based economy on an otherwise economically weak island. It has also led to the employment of several Cree peoples and serves as a place for social gatherings on the island. The MoCreebec decided to take the social, environmental and economic issues facing their peoples into their own hands and to build and invest in Cree businesses. They decided that in order to break the poverty cycle that was riddling their community, it was best to invest in a Cree economy and promote individual and collective business opportunities that support the values of Cree people. The purpose was to create a sustainable form of economic livelihood to help the community be self sufficient and create jobs for the current and future members of the community. The primary goal was to initiate community economic development projects that build assets for the organization, contribute to the economy and provide employment to the local labour force. The MoCreebec also sought to address ongoing basic needs as education and health care. In order to do this, the MoCreebec Council identified that an indigenous owned ecolodge in Northern Canada that promotes environment and culture will benefit the community on the island as a whole by stimulating the economy.
  • Education on what tourism brings not only economically but socially
  • The lodge provides a very important social space to the community as there are currently not many places on Moose Factory Island that the community can congregate. The architects consulted and worked with all members of the community to ensure authentic design and construction that combined Cree values with a building that worked well in the sub Arctic. This has led to a space that is welcomed by the community. Despite the fact that some members of the community are still not comfortable with the presence of tourists, it has enabled the sharing of their culture and the remembering of traditions that were long since buried. This resulted in the Shabatwon, a 21st century version of the Cree gathering place. The lodge also serves an important social function as it is now the meeting place for social activities on the island. It was designed to include a Shabatwon or Great Hall to reflect the culture of the tribe. The lodge also serves as the main means to preserving, sharing and inspiring the traditions of the MoCreebec culture. . The lodge also provides a safe space for the community and is available for families in crisis. The lodge provides support through donations such as providing meals to families during a funerals, and space for meetings or events that are needed by the community.
  • Pride has been lost and traditional knowledge and values related to their culture and environmental learnings were lost due to the placement of the community in christian schools for many years. Currently much of the tribe is still christian but due to the ecolodge are participating in cultural events, and education of cultural ways issues. The MoCreebec have traditionally been a nomadic people and have moved from place to place depending on the seasons and by needs. Many of the MoCreebec have traditionally been living in substandard living conditions such as tents and have recently in the last few decades moved into more permanent dwellings. As Aboriginal communities in Ontario (and many other countries) have not been treated fairly in the past and often put on reserves and had their livelihoods restricted, this has resulted in a community riddled with drug, alcohol and sexual abuse and loss of cultural traditions. The Cree tribe on Moose Factory Island were placed in Christian schools in the last century, which resulted in sexual abuse by the people who ran the schools and a loss of cultural traditions that define the livelihoods of the Aboriginal people. As many of the community have not retained or lost many of their traditions, to develop a tourism product based on these traditions has been difficult. Many of the employees do not know how to answer some visitor questions regarding community culture, traditions or stories because they were told so often not to tell their stories or practice their traditions that they are too afraid to answer people’s questions (Kapashesit, 2010
  • In order to design and construct this lodge, they consulted with the community to ensure that the MoCreebec values were reflected.The MoCreebec’s philosophy of living lightly on the land is entrenched in all operations. The facility was designed by the local MoCreeBec people as a means of seeking local development in a way that mesh with their identities and beliefs. The lodge was designed to incorporate various environmental features and this philosophy is reflected in every decision in the lodge from flooring to food. In addition, education is occurring and spreading throughout the Island. Education about conservation of energy and water and recycling programs are being introduced community wide. Garbage clean up on the island has also been implemented. Because of the environmental and social consciousness of tourism development on the island, there is a push in the community to become aware of their environmental impact. The indigenous people are beginning once again to become connected to the land which has led to understanding their consumption patterns and how this affects the greater global system
  • The lodge employs local people, most whom are Aboriginal. if tourists wish to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony or go winter camping or experience the traditional way of hunting or fishing, the local community works with the lodge to provide these services. The lodge also uses supplies if possible from the local community and involves the community through education and training to raise the standard of living in the tribe. In the future, the lodge hopes to work more closely in providing skills and education to the community.
  • Figure out what they are willing to share. Determine the human resources available and the stage of the product
  • Accommodations, roads, infrastructure, tourism supplies, restaurants
  • Develop a tourism master plan
  • Transcript

    • 1. This presentation was presented at the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference 2011 (ESTC 2011), held in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA, from September 19th-21st. Organized by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), the ESTC is a unique annual conference providing practical solutions to advance sustainability goals for the tourism industry.
      Learn more about the ESTC:
      ESTC on Twitter:
      ESTC on Facebook:
      The International Ecotourism Society | web www.ecotourism.orgemail | tel +1 202 506 5033
    • 2. Assessing the Potential for Aboriginal Ecotourism Development in Canada
      Dr. Sonya Graci
      Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Ryerson University
      ESTC 2011
      Hilton Head
    • 3. Aboriginal Tourism in Canada
      Aboriginal tourism represents 0.5 percent of Canadian tourism
      Generates $ 270 M and employs 14,000 people
    • 4. Is There Potential?
      3.8 percent of the Canadian population is Aboriginal (Statistics Canada, 2006).
      If Aboriginal people were to share in tourism in proportion to their population, it would be a $1.6 billion industry, providing 30,000–40,000 jobs.
    • 5. Is There Potential?
      The Canadian outdoor/culture market segment is represented by 74% Canadians, 20% Americans and 6% from other countries
    • 6. Is There Potential?
      European tourists are interested in Aboriginal tourism products and visiting Canada, as indicated by approximately 2.7 million tourists from the UK, 2.5 million from Germany and 3.1 million from Italy (Economic Growth Solutions Inc., 2002).
    • 7. Aboriginal People in Canada
      Suffer from a lack of education, employment, low income and high instances of poverty.
    • 8. Study with Key Experts
      Two market studies
      Best practice case studies in Ontario, Peru and Australia
      Study with Ontario Chiefs
      Strategy for Northern Saskatchewan
      Strategy for Nunavut
      Strategy for Walpole Island, Ontario
    • 9. Purpose of Studies
      To determine the potential for Aboriginal ecotourism including market and feasibility
      To determine the challenges and benefits to development of this form of tourism.
    • 10. Purpose of Studies
      To identify key principles that ensure success in Aboriginal ecotourism
      To identify best practices and lessons learned
    • 11. Aboriginal Ecotourism
      Based upon the integral elements of environmental sustainability, education and the promotion and sharing of Aboriginal culture by host communities (Graci, 2010).
    • 12. Aboriginal Ecotourism Product
      Traditional villages
      Wildlife viewing
      Traditional healing/experience retreat
      Dog sledding
      Other cultural and adventure tourism products
    • 13. Aboriginal Ecotourism Activities
      Cooking traditional Aboriginal food (100%)
      Handicrafts (89%)
      Songs/storytelling (89%)
      Aboriginal language education (83%)
      Traditional accommodations (78%)
      Wildlife viewing tours (72%)
      Traditional canoe route tours (72%)
    • 14. Aboriginal Ecotourism Activities
      Sharing of traditional festivals (72%)
      Traditional dances (61%)
      Education on traditional uses of plants (56%)
      Tours of traditional hunting grounds (56%)
      Sweat lodge ceremonies (33%)
      Tours of burial grounds/archaeological sites (28%)
    • 15. General Statements
      Tourism that focuses on both Aboriginal cultural education and environmental preservation
      In line with current community practices and philosophy
      Is important to preserve their traditional lifestyle and practices
    • 16. Potential for Aboriginal Ecotourism in Canada?
    • 17. Benefits of Aboriginal Ecotourism
      Preservation of local culture, history and traditions
      Increased employment and capacity building
      Environmental preservation
      Opportunity to educate others about Aboriginal culture
    • 18. Challenges
      Lack of credit and access to start up funds
      Poor product development and marketing
      Lack of skills and business experience
    • 19. Challenges
      High operating costs for tourism businesses in remote locations
      Support needed from broader community and government
      Seasonality and low wages
      Apprehension of community to share Aboriginal culture and traditions
    • 20. Key Attributes for Success
      Community Integration
      Building pride for cultural heritage and environmental preservation
      Community capacity development
      Partnership Development
    • 21. Ownership
      Should be owned by Aboriginal communities
      Different models include using a management company that hires local people or being completely operated by the community
    • 22. Best Practice: Cree Village Ecolodge
      Mo’Creebec Council decided to invest in a Cree economy
      Self sufficient community and create jobs
      100% community owned and operated
    • 23. Community Integration
      Integrating community with each other and with tourists
      Using the space for congregation and have it open to the community
    • 24. Best Practice: Cree Village Ecolodge
      Shabatwon, a 21st century version of the Cree gathering place brings together community
    • 25. Building Pride for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Preservation
    • 26. Best Practice: Cree Village Ecolodge
    • 27. Community Capacity Building
      Increase of knowledge, skills and training
      Reduced reliance on government assistance
    • 28. Best Practice: Cree Village Ecolodge
    • 29. How To Harness Potential….
    • 30. Community Consultation and Stakeholder Assessment
      Does a community want tourism and if so what will it look like?
    • 31. Identification of Current and Existing Tourism Assets
      Catalogue existing tourism assets to assess what currently exists and define the gaps.
    • 32. Identification of the Current and Existing Tourism Activities
      Current and potential tourism activities
      Identify current gaps and highlight potential and market ready products
    • 33. Market Analysis
      Right product for the right market
      Identify target market preferences
    • 34. Partnership Exploration and Development
      Marketing opportunities
      Product development
      Business planning
    • 35. Partnership Development
      Aboriginal communities
      Levels of government
      National and regional tourism associations
      Aboriginal tourism associations
    • 36. Multi-Stakeholder Partnership
      Guidance, education and training
      Increased marketing efforts
      Support and recognition from funding agencies
      Knowledge exchange
      Sharing of best practices
      Opportunities for leadership
    • 37. Development of a Tourism Strategy
      Engage in strategic planning activitiesin accordance with cultural values
    • 38. Aboriginal Ecotourism Development
      Focused on sustainability
      Increasing economic development
      Reducing reliance on government assistance
      Preservation of culture, heritage and natural environments
      Increasing community capacity
      Knowledge, skills and training
    • 39. Contact Information
      Dr. Sonya Graci