MANITOULIN—Three Manitoulin Island Indigenous businesses are the recipients of Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) business development micro-grants. The First Nation-owned Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre, Wikwemikong Tourism and Wasse-Giizhik Tours and Accommodations were named as three of six Ontario Indigenous business to each receive a 2018 micro grant worth $26,500.
“ITAC’s Product Development Fund is making a huge difference for Indigenous tourism operators from coast to coast to coast,” says President and CEO of ITAC, Keith Henry. “We’re seeing funds being invested in everything from training a young person to guiding visitors through ancient sites, to helping with websites and marketing materials, to helping purchase a guest shuttle.”
This year, ITAC provided $317,000 to Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities growing their tourism operations and developing them to higher levels of market readiness —providing employment in their communities, enriching culture and revitalizing Indigenous economic opportunity, a press release from ITAC states.
ITAC’s Product Development Fund program responds directly to the demonstrated need of the support to guide and prepare Indigenous tourism businesses to reach a market-ready state while developing sustainable growth for economic success. This year, ITAC received funding requests from businesses totalling more than $1.3 million. All funded projects must be completed by March 31, 2019.
This is the third year of the ITAC Product Development Grant program and to date the program has provided more than $850,000 to over 140 Indigenous tourism businesses located across Canada.
By improving product and capacity development among partner and member organizations, the Product Development Fund forms part of ITAC’s new strategic five-year plan (2019-2024), with a goal to grow the Indigenous tourism industry in Canada to more than $2.2 billion and support 200 export-ready Indigenous tourism businesses in Canada by 2024. Funding for the initiative is supported by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
Wikwemikong Tourism manager Luke Wassegijig told The Expositor, “the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada Product Development Fund will assist our organization in acquiring products necessary to achieve our marketing objectives. Through this fund, we will ensure that we are contributing to ITAC’s national strategy of growing Indigenous tourism with growth in revenues, jobs and successful business.”
Coincidentally, Mr. Wassegijig’s personal business, Wasse-Giizhik Tours and Accommodations, was also named a recipient. The grant was awarded to enable Mr. Wassegijig to invest in equipment for his business.
The Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre was also awarded a $4,500 grant which will assist with website development and marketing materials.