In the photo, the striking metal sculpture ‘The Chief’, by artist Smoker Marchand, greets visitors to the Osoyoos Indian Band’s NK’MIP Resort in the South Okanagan. (TOTA / Don Weixl photo)
The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) today announced three initiatives that it believes will spark new development of the Aboriginal tourism sector throughout the region.
CEO Glenn Mandziuk says TOTA is partnering with the Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC (AtBC) to co-host a major national Aboriginal Tourism Conference in Osoyoos on March 28-30. TOTA will also host a special forum at that conference about the development of Aboriginal cultural tourism in the Thompson Okanagan, and with AtBC it will provide financial assistance for people from Aboriginal communities and tourism destinations in the region to attend the conference.
"This is an important milestone for us and for the growth of Aboriginal tourism in our region," Mandziuk says. "We are proud to be partnering with AtBC, and it demonstrates our desire at TOTA to be inclusive and work together with First Nations people, communities and enterprises to advance the Aboriginal tourism sector throughout the Thompson Okanagan."
Mandziuk notes that the 2012 Aboriginal Tourism Conference, to be held at the Osoyoos Indian Band's (OIB) NK'MIP Resort, will be one of the first conferences ever held in Canada on the topic of Aboriginal tourism. "It is attracting participants from across the country, including from Ontario, Alberta, B.C., Nunavut and the Northwest Territories," he adds. More than 200 delegates are expected at the conference.
"TOTA and AtBC are offering financial assistance to people from Aboriginal communities and tourism destinations in the Thompson Okanagan to attend the conference because we want to maximize participation from our region in this important event," Mandziuk says.
Exposure to the first-class speakers at the conference, as well as to the special regional forum on Aboriginal cultural tourism, will not only help Aboriginal community leaders and tourism operators develop their businesses, it will also support the current planning of an overall strategy for that sector in the Thompson Okanagan.
The Forum on Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Development in the Thompson Okanagan will be held from 5:00-6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 28, during the first day of the national conference. TOTA representatives hosting the Forum will include Mandziuk, Industry Development Specialist Jennifer Houiellebecq, and Industry Services Assistant Rob Grifone.
TOTA is currently working with AtBC to develop a regional Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Strategy that will complement both the new 10-year Thompson Okanagan Regional Tourism Strategy, called Embracing our Potential, and AtBC's new five-year strategy, called The Next Phase 2012-2017.
"The extensive research and grassroots consultations that led to our Regional Tourism Strategy told us that Aboriginal cultural tourism has to be a vital part of our plans as we move forward," Mandziuk says. "Many visitors want to experience and learn about the rich history and culture of First Nations people in all parts of the Thompson Okanagan. We already have a number of world-class Aboriginal tourism properties in the region, but we want to work with AtBC and local First Nations people to help develop many more, for the benefit of everyone," he says.
The 2012 Aboriginal Tourism Conference will focus on best practices and examples of successful, authentic Aboriginal tourism products. Its plenary sessions will showcase successful indigenous tourism businesses from around the world, and will offer practical advice on how to succeed in the tourism industry.
Sessions will include addresses by OIB Chief Clarence Louie, AtBC CEO Keith Henry, and TOTA CEO Glenn Mandziuk – as well as panels of experts debating topics such as Who is the Canadian Aboriginal Tourism Visitor?, What Does it Take to Create a Successful Aboriginal Tourism Product?, and How Do I Finance my Tourism Project?.
In addition there will be an open-microphone knowledge-sharing session on Keeping Authenticity Within Your Aboriginal Tourism Product, showcasing of three successful Canadian Aboriginal Tourism products, a speech from Chief Louie on Creating Successful Tourism Partnerships, and a presentation on the Maori tourism success story in New Zealand.
Also, Henry will present AtBC's Five-Year Plan for 2012-17, and Mandziuk will give an address on Developing a Regional Tourism Strategy (8:30-9:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 29 – Day 2).
The conference will feature luncheons, networking events, wine tours, walking tours, and the AtBC Awards Gala Dinner – complete with DJ music and dancing. To register or for information see: www.theeventpros.ca/conferences/Aboriginal-Tourism-in-Osoyoos-2012.html
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FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
Glenn Mandziuk, CEO
Office: 250-860-5999 ext 216