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Pandemic-impacted Indigenous tourism won’t fully recover until 2022: report

Still, operators remain optimistic about recovery and resilience
The Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current

A new report from Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO) suggests that the revenue and employment generated by Indigenous tourism-related businesses won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.

Impact Assessment of COVID-19 on Ontario’s Indigenous Tourism Industry was commissioned by ITO and released in late November.

“In 2019, Ontario was home to Canada’s largest Indigenous tourism industry,” Kevin Eshkawkogan, president and CEO of ITO, said in a news release.

“We employed about 13,000 people and contributed more than $650 million to the GDP. This impact assessment confirms our earlier projections about the pandemic’s influence. The industry here in Ontario has lost 4,000 jobs and real GDP has fallen by almost half to $332 million.”

Despite the drop in numbers, Indigenous tourism operators remain optimistic about recovery and resilience, according to the report, which notes that 87 per cent of those surveyed said they are “confident about operating through a short-term crisis.”

The report also indicates that operators will need access to capital and government support in order to continue on the path to recovery.

Eshkawkogan said operators will need $2.5 million annually to stay afloat. It’s devised a tailored plan, Strategic and Covid-19 Recovery Plan Continuing Our Journey, to aid operators through recovery.

“Operators are resilient and we will continue to support them through collaboration and careful management,” he said.

ITO is a dedicated Indigenous tourism organization focused on uniting communities, Indigenous organizations, and industry leaders to support the growth of Indigenous tourism in Ontario.