Indigenous tourism gets tactical

First, the tourism board showed Canadians what they can do in their backyard. Now the strategy is to literally give them a roadmap.

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A little over a month ago, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) created Destination Indigenous – a booking website that was game-changing for the tourism board, as it symbolized its first big push to get Canadians interested in adding Indigenous tourism experiences to their bucket list.

Through the Destination Indigenous platform, travellers can book activities such as exploring wildlife areas in Quebec, witnessing the Northern Lights in the Northwest Territories, or dining on Indigenous cuisine.

Now, ITAC is furthering its domestic marketing push with “Escape From Home,” a new content-driven campaign that aims to make it easier for Canadians to start exploring Indigenous businesses, land and culture via detailed itineraries.

“Escape From Home” will be promoted through digital ads, showcasing storytellers who will travel across Canada providing first-person accounts of their Indigenous journeys. For example, a stop-by-stop itinerary by Ryan Rogers, an ITAC marketing coordinator from the Musqueam Nation in Vancouver, is featured on the Destination Indigenous website, highlighting wildlife areas, heritage spots, restaurants and hotels a person can experience should they decide to “Escape from Home” in Quebec.

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Keith Henry, president and CEO of ITAC says over the last few years, a lot of the organization’s work went into trying to gain more interest from potential visitors in global markets. However, due to travel restrictions, ITAC has had to pivot, focusing solely on visitors in Canada.

To save roughly 700 Indigenous tourism businesses at risk of going under, it kicked off local marketing efforts such as the “Virtually Yours” campaign (showing experiences that were indefinitely halted due to the pandemic), the Destination Indigenous website, and a couple of PSA videos in May and June.

The latest instalment is more tactical in getting information out to local travellers, says Henry. “‘Escape From Home’ is much more focused on really energizing Canadians to get excited about Indigenous experiences. It’s gone from being broad awareness, to being a much more specific campaign.”

Henry says ITAC is also working with tour operators to help create packages and he estimates that between $600,000 to $750,000 has been spent on recent marketing-related initiatives.

“Each of these tactics weren’t here six, seven months ago,” he says. “It’s a significant effort to help our businesses survive COVID-19. We’ve got other programs, and we’re trying to sustain them… without a doubt we need to find business, and we need to create local support for those businesses.”

In ITAC’s 2019-2020 annual report, it was estimated that the Indigenous tourism industry contributed $2 billion in GDP. Factors such as increasing Indigenous tourism marketing activities were among the reasons for the economic growth.

The creative agency tasked with the “Escape From Home” campaign was Maku Maku.