Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada Press Kit


To provide leadership in the development and marketing of authentic Indigenous tourism experiences through innovative partnerships.


A thriving Indigenous tourism economy sharing authentic, memorable and enriching experiences.

Photo Credit: Audet Photo; Business Name: Site d'interprétation Micmac de Gespeg


The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) is a national non-profit Indigenous tourism industry organization established in 2015. ITAC is the lead organization tasked with growing and promoting the Indigenous tourism industry across the country. Inspired by a vision for a thriving Indigenous tourism economy sharing authentic, memorable and enriching experiences, ITAC develops relationships with groups and regions with similar mandates to enable collective support, product development, promotion and marketing of authentic Indigenous tourism businesses in a respectful protocol.

What is Indigenous Tourism?

ITAC has endorsed the following definitions specific to Indigenous tourism, as they resulted from previous national and extensive consultation of industry, Elders and community.

Indigenous Tourism – all tourism businesses majority-owned (51%), operated and/ or controlled by First Nations, Métis or Inuit Peoples that can demonstrate a connection and responsibility to the local Indigenous community and traditional territory where the operation resides.

Indigenous Cultural Tourism – meets the Indigenous tourism criteria and in addition, a significant portion of the experience incorporates Indigenous culture in a manner that is appropriate, respectful and true to the Indigenous culture being portrayed. The authenticity is ensured through the active involvement of Indigenous people in the development and delivery of the experience.

There are tourism businesses that are neither majority-owned nor operated by Indigenous People who offer ‘Indigenous tourism experiences’. Authentic Indigenous Cultural Tourism is by Indigenous People, not about Indigenous People.

Photo Credit: Indigenous Tourism Canada; Business Name: Tundra North Tours

Who are Indigenous People in Canada?

Indigenous is a term used in Canada to refer to the descendants of the original inhabitants of the land and includes First Nation, Métis and Inuit People. While Indigenous is a term of preference to some people, it is always best practice to use the nation or home community. When in doubt, ask the person or supplier how they self-describe.

There are more than 60 distinct Indigenous languages spoken in Canada from 12 different language families, more than 630 First Nation communities, over 50 Inuit communities, and approximately 600,000 Metis People across Canada and around half of the Indigenous population in Canada live in cities.

There are approximately 2M Indigenous people in Canada today, about 5.3% of the Canadian population.

Photo Credit: Logan Swayze; Business Name: Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre

Story Starters

The Indigenous Storytellers Booklet and image library features some of the storytellers, cultural leaders and knowledge keepers that make Indigenous tourism experiences so unique.

Indigenous Story Ideas feature what’s new, exciting and noteworthy in the Indigenous tourism industry.

Nations, an Indigenous lifestyle magazine, showcases stories from 140 export-ready Indigenous tourism businesses from coast to coast to coast.

Finding and booking Indigenous tourism experiences across Canada is now easier than ever on DestinationIndigenous.ca, ITAC’s newly launched digital experience platform. Travellers can check out the platform to find out what is open now to discover. Be sure to look for The Original Original branded mark to ensure the experience is an authentic one.

To find Indigenous culinary experiences, restaurants and recipes from across Canada, visit indigenouscuisine.ca.

There are lots of Indigenous artisans and makers across the country that can introduce you and your audience to authentic Indigenous arts and crafts, find out more at buyauthentic.ca.

Experience our living cultures at a powerful gathering of Indigenous celebration. Find Pow Wows and guest protocols at canadianpowwows.ca.

Find authentic Indigenous vacation packages and enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences alongside legendary hospitality with Indigenous Vacation Packages.

The Indigenous communities across Canada have many storytellers. To connect with someone that can speak to the tourism industry, please contact marketing@indigenoustourism.ca.

Language is one of the many ways that has been used to oppress Indigenous Peoples. By being aware of the ways in which implied colonialism lives in language, you can re-frame the narrative and de-colonize your words. This guide, 12 Ways To Better Choose Our Words When We Write About Indigenous Peoples, is meant to help writers make better choices, and to equip them with a basic understanding on how not to repeat historically inaccurate terms, break Indigenous Protocols, or use offensive language.

2019 Market Snapshots: Understanding the Opportunity for Indigenous Tourism Businesses in Canada (historical data for reference).

Indigenous Canada Video Series: Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada has created many video assets including The Power of Indigenous Tourism series, Indigenous Voices series, Experience Indigenous Canada, which is available in four different languages and much more.

Photo Credit: Audet Photo; Business Name: Site Traditional Huron

The Original Original

New Mark Aims to Better Identify Authentic Indigenous Tourism Experiences

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) launched its new campaign, The Original Original on Indigenous People's Day June 21, 2021. The campaign aims to educate travellers, modernize their perception of Indigenous experiences and rebuild the industry, which was disproportionately devastated by the pandemic.

A key component of The Original Original is a new brand mark that will help travellers better identify and book experiences from Indigenous-owned tourism businesses across Canada.

“The Original Original campaign is a reflection of our communities as they really are: diverse, authentic, empowered and current,” said Keith Henry, president and CEO of ITAC. “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.”

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, it’s a business that embraces the values of Indigenous tourism, it offers a market or export-ready experience, and is an ITAC member.

The Original Original mark artwork aims to explore the ethos of this very concept by placing two-letter Os within each other, representing the world, as well as the cycle of life. At the centre of these circles is a fire symbol that possesses a single flame, but is divided into three parts. This distinction represents each of the three groups of Indigenous Peoples in Canada: First Nation, Métis and Inuit. Through this branded mark, ITAC aims to further develop widespread recognition of authentic Indigenous experiences across the country.

“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,” says Keith Henry. “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 Indigenous tourism industry was disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Prior to March 2020, Indigenous tourism was a fast growing industry, which brought an estimated $1.9 billion in revenue to Canada’s gross domestic product. 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.

Canadians interested in helping to rebuild the Indigenous tourism industry can do so by visiting Indigenous tourism destinations from coast to coast to coast at www.destinationIndigenous.ca to book an Indigenous experience and/or by sharing the campaign posters and videos.

For this domestic marketing campaign, ITAC is pleased to have the support of Destination Canada to further enhance and promote Indigenous tourism operators from coast to coast to coast, reminding consumers of the authentic, beautiful and culturally significant experiences available to enjoy throughout the country as the industry looks to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The Original Original Posters

Canadians interested in helping to rebuild the Indigenous tourism industry can do so by visiting Indigenous tourism destinations from coast to coast to coast at www.destinationIndigenous.ca to book an Indigenous experience and/or by sharing the campaign posters and videos.

Introduction Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations (ICAN)

Launched with a vision for a world where Indigenous food is not a dish served for one but a cultural feast and celebration of Nations, ICAN is dedicated to sharing Indigenous food, culinary and cultural experiences from across Canada with the world.

In November 2019, an MOU between the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and ICAN was signed to support a strategic framework to develop and market the country’s many Indigenous culinary experiences, and in turn, foster the growth of Indigenous culinary tourism on a national level.

To find Indigenous culinary experiences, restaurants and recipes from across Canada:

Photo Credit: Indigenous Tourism Canada; Business Name: Pei Pei Chei Ow"

Effects of COVID-19 on Indigenous Tourism

Prior to 2020, Indigenous tourism was outpacing Canadian tourism activity overall, and international demand for Indigenous experiences was at an all-time high.

There are approximately 2 million First Nations, Métis and Inuit people living in Canada. There are over 800 unique Indigenous communities in Canada. Each has its own story to tell. To find out more about the Indigenous communities of Canada, click here.

Indigenous people in Canada are using tourism as a means to rediscover and share their Culture with the world. The impact of COVID-19 will go beyond the economic numbers. There will be a significant cultural impact as well.

According to the latest research from the Conference Board of Canada, as of 2019 the economic impact of Indigenous tourism in Canada:

  • +40,000 workers employed
  • +1,700 Indigenous tourism businesses across Canada
  • Contributed of $1.9B annually direct to Canada’s GDP in 2019 (up from $1.5B in 2017)
  • $1.1B in wages and salaries
  • $3.7B in revenue

Based on the insights of operators and other sector-specific information, the Conference Board of Canada projects the Indigenous tourism sector’s overall economic footprint will be greatly reduced in 2020 as a result of COVID-19. The Conference Board of Canada estimated in May 2020:

  • 714 Indigenous tourism businesses are at a high risk of permanent closures
  • Based on the continued impacts of Covid-19 and the second wave of the pandemic, an additional 500 Indigenous tourism businesses are at high risk of permanent closures
  • 21,413 employees could lose their jobs
  • $1.1 billion in GDP contribution will be lost

Photo Credit: Heiko Wittenborn; Business Name: Nunavik Tourism

COVID-19 Resources

To see how the impacts of COVID-19 have affected the Indigenous tourism Industry and the solutions proposed by ITAC:

Photo Credit: Indigenous Tourism Canada; Business Name: Moccasin Trails

“The impacts of COVID-19 on our Indigenous tourism sector cannot be understated,” says Keith Henry, ITAC’s President and CEO.

“Prior to 2020, Indigenous tourism was industry-leading and outpacing Canadian tourism activity overall but this came to an almost complete standstill. The ability to advocate and step up alongside Indigenous Services Canada and Destination Canada to provide financial support to struggling businesses is exactly what ITAC is here for. We take our responsibility for protecting and growing the Indigenous tourism industry across the country very seriously and we are proud to be able to do so now when we are needed the most.”

Photo Credit: Indigenous Tourism Canada; Business Name: Tundra North Tours

“Indigenous tourism offers truly authentic, memorable and enriching lifetime experiences for travellers,” says Marsha Walden, President and CEO, Destination Canada.

“Our marketing and research agreement with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) since their inception in 2016 has helped to advance our understanding and promote the quality and variety of these Indigenous tourism experiences in Canada. The work we do with ITAC supports employment opportunities, cultural revitalization and provides ongoing economic benefits for communities and entrepreneurs—this relationship and collaboration is needed now more than ever before with the immense impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic that has deeply affected every community across our country.”

Photo Credit: Logan Swayze; Business Name: Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre

Targets: Measurable goals to achieve by 2024

As the Indigenous tourism industry in Canada recovers from the shock of COVID-19, ITAC has set its sights on moving forward in the most adaptable and sustainable manner possible. ITAC understands this undertaking will present challenges, both known and unknown, and is prepared to face them head-on.

The three main priorities of in ITAC’s 2020-24 Strategic Recovery Plan are:

Ensuring the sustainability of ITAC member businesses across the country. This will be achieved through the stimulus grant fund for Indigenous tourism operators and an increased emphasis on education and training.

Ensuring the sustainability of the provincial and territorial Indigenous tourism associations. This will be achieved by supporting the ability of provincial and territorial Indigenous tourism associations to maintain their membership and infrastructure.

Ensuring the sustainability of ITAC’s national operations. This will be achieved with an emphasis on leadership and through a strengthening of relationships with our industry and government partners.

2024 Targets

COVID-19 has pressed pause on the Indigenous tourism industry’s flourishing growth. With the new and emerging realities at play, our revised target for 2024 is to return to our pre-COVID levels:

  • $1.9 billion of direct GDP contributions
  • 1,800 Indigenous tourism businesses
  • 40,000 Indigenous tourism employees

Photo Credit: Indigenous Tourism Canada; Business Name: Wanuskewin Heritage Park

“Canada’s tourism sector has been hit hard by COVID-19, and Indigenous tourism has been particularly affected,” says the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.

“Indigenous tourism operators welcome visitors to the lands they’ve called home for millennia, and it’s not hard to see why this was the fastest-growing part of our tourism industry before the crisis. This investment will help Indigenous tourism come back strong, supporting good jobs and playing a key role in our economic recovery.”

Photo credits: Indigenous Tourism Association Canada, Audet Photo, Logan Swayze, Heiko Wittenborn, Mathieu Dupuis. All photos are available upon request with full photo credit information provided.
Photo credit: Metis Crossing / Indigenous Tourism Canada

Meet the ITAC Leaders

Keith Henry, President & CEO

Mr. Keith Henry is a Métis person that was born in Thompson, Manitoba and raised in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He achieved a B.Ed. from the University of Saskatchewan in 1995 beginning his career with a teaching position and has become well known for his strategic administrative and negotiations skills. Since 1998 Mr. Henry has led numerous provincial, federal and industry negotiations on a variety of issues. He has been directly responsible for financial administration of a number of Indigenous non-profits and has a proven track record of success.

Mr. Henry has become an international Indigenous cultural tourism leader receiving recognition as the former CEO for Indigenous Tourism Association of British Columbia (ITBC). In April 2014 the inaugural World Indigenous Tourism Alliance award recognized the work of ITBC and Mr. Henry’s leadership. In Canada, Mr. Henry continues to be recognized across the country as one of the leaders in Indigenous tourism spearheading the growth of authentic Indigenous tourism in Canada.

Sébastien Desnoyers-Picard, Chief Marketing Officer

As the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada’s (ITAC) Chief Marketing Officer, Sébastien Desnoyers-Picard has spent his career developing strong partnerships and relationships with industry leaders across the globe and is passionate about raising awareness of the many opportunities for Indigenous communities. Prior to joining ITAC, Sébastien spent 10 years serving the Quebec Indigenous tourism industry, first as General Manager with Tourism Wendake and then as a marketing advisor with Quebec Indigenous Tourism.

As a proud member of the Huron-Wendat Nation, and past Chief in his community, Sébastien is a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and traditional way of life, which he still practices. His number one goal in his work with ITAC is to support a thriving and prosperous indigenous tourism industry across the country. Sébastien has a diploma in Business, a degree in Sales and Marketing, and has completed an Indigenous studies program at Laval University.

Teresa Ryder, Director of Business Development

As the Director of Business Development, Teresa is responsible for overseeing the development and stability of Indigenous tourism associations across Canada as well as product development and grant initiatives to support Indigenous tourism entrepreneurs and Indigenous communities investing in tourism. In 2020, Teresa led the $16 million Stimulus Development Grant program for ITAC- an effort made to stabilize more than 675 Indigenous tourism operators as they navigated the loss of travellers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has also overseen the growth of the International Indigenous Tourism Conference - the largest Indigenous tourism conference in the world - since 2018, being a part of this project for many years since inception.

Teresa is proud to be of Musqueam descent. Upon finishing her Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology at Simon Fraser University, Teresa has spent more than 10 years in Indigenous tourism development, starting her career with Indigenous Tourism BC. She has worked with Indigenous tourism operators and partners to grow Indigenous tourism while implementing regional and provincial destination development strategies and improving the market readiness of operators. She is an experienced speaker, facilitator and trainer and an advocate for the betterment of Indigenous peoples. Teresa is passionate about Indigenous tourism not only for the economic benefits but also for the social impact on Indigenous people and communities who thrive in business while sharing unique stories from coast to coast to coast.

Teresa currently sits as a board of director for the Tourism Industry Association of Canada where she advocates alongside national tourism professionals for tourism.

Ryan Rogers, Marketing Coordinator

A proud member of the Musqueam Nation in Vancouver BC, Ryan assists the Chief Marketing Officer in achieving ITAC’s annual KPIs. His work is focused on the travel trade in the Asian Markets, corporate communications and managing media relations. His role also includes producing content for social channels and providing visual support to staff and provincial coordinators.

Ryan has a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of British Columbia and has been working in the Indigenous tourism industry for the past 6 years. Prior to working with ITAC, Ryan worked as the marketing coordinator with Indigenous Tourism BC. He takes great pride in representing Indigenous interests in his career.

Joseph Shawana, Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations

Chairman of the Board of Directors for Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations, former Executive Chef at Kū-Kŭm Kitchen and Professor at Centennial College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts Centennial College in Toronto. Chef Joseph won best world cuisine in Ontario for 2019 beating out over 33,000 restaurants. He was named as top ten chefs in Ontario and had reviews in the New York Times, Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, Food & Wine. He is also in great company on Air Canada's top 20 restaurants in Canada for 2019.

Media Contacts:

English Media Requests: Nicole Amiel, Director of Eastern Canada I Beattie Tartan | 416.436.5185 | nicole.amiel@beattiegroup.com

French Media Requests: Sébastien Desnoyers-Picard, Chief Marketing Officer I Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada I 418-655-0210 I Sebastien@IndigenousTourism.ca