By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The tenuous Indigenous tourism industry will now be able to help guide tourists to genuine, culturally appropriate Indigenous tourism destinations with a designated mark, called The Original Original, just in time for summer.
The campaign aims to educate travellers, modernize their perception of Indigenous experiences and rebuild the industry, which was disproportionately devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown and sanitary measures, which have gutted the tourism industry over the last year and change, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada’s CEO said last week.
“The Original Original campaign is a reflection of our communities as they really are: diverse, authentic, empowered and current,” said Keith Henry. “Our greater mandate at ITAC is to leverage tourism to help support the revitalization and broader understanding of Indigenous culture in a way that contributes positively to Indigenous communities. The Original Original mark supports this mandate by helping travellers better distinguish and support authentic businesses, and lift our voices.”
According to ITAC, such a designation will be given to businesses that satisfy many different criteria; The Original Original mark identifies tourism businesses that have been vetted by ITAC using four key criteria: the business is at least 51-per-cent Indigenous-owned, a business that embraces the values of Indigenous tourism, offers a market or export-ready experience, and is an ITAC member.
“We are thrilled to officially roll out The Original Original film and poster series, a collection of striking imagery that visually encapsulates the spirit of Indigenous travel experiences across Canada,” Henry said. “We invite people to view these and share with their friends and family to help get the word out.
Indigenous Peoples continue to provide transformative visitor experiences. An up to date list of Indigenous experiences that are currently open or closed can be found at DestinationIndigenous.ca.
Now is the time to come together as one and celebrate our connection to this vast country.”
The Original Original mark, so dubbed because Indigenous is literally synonymous with original, Henry said, was created by placing two letter Os on top of one another with a single flame in three parts in the middle to represent First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Peoples together.
The marketing move was necessary given the circumstances surrounding the end of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Prior to March 2020, Indigenous tourism was on the rise, bringing an estimated $1.9 billion in revenue to Canada’s economy. At that time, there were an estimated 40,000 Indigenous tourism employees and 1,900 Indigenous-led businesses. Today there are an estimated 15,000 employees and 1,000 businesses left.
For more information on Indigenous tourism destinations this summer, visit destinationindigenous.com.
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the IORI:WASE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.