Why Aboriginal Tourism Continues to Grow in British Columbia?

The Value of Aboriginal Tourism Backgrounder

Why Aboriginal Tourism Continues to Grow in British Columbia?

The following background has been created to provide further background regarding a key question that is repeatedly asked, why Aboriginal tourism continues to grow in British Columbia.


  • The Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia (AtBC) is a registered nonprofit society described as a provincial Aboriginal cultural tourism industry sector organization.
  • AtBC was established in 1996-97 by a handful of Aboriginal tourism operators and leaders to support industry specific training, product development and marketing.
  • Today AtBC has thirteen Aboriginal board members;
    • One representative for each six (6) tourism regions
    • Six (6) at large representatives
    • One (1) ex-officio role for outgoing chair
    • AtBC is a stakeholder based society that provides an opportunity for Aboriginal and non Aboriginal tourism partners to join on an annual basis.
      • AtBC is currently averaging approximately 150-200 stakeholders each year and this is growin.
      • AtBC has received mandates of support from the First Nations Summit and Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs in Assembly, most recently in 2012 for the current AtBC Five Year Plan.
      • AtBC is recognized as an international leader in developing authentic Aboriginal cultural tourism experiences.
      • The current AtBC Five Year Plan is entitled The Next Phase 2012-2017.
      • AtBC has a proven track record of success after implementing the Blueprint Strategy. The Blueprint Strategy invested ten (10) million dollars in Federal and Provincial government funding from 2007-2012. The increase training, product development and marketing during these years supported the growth of the Aboriginal cultural tourism industry from $20 million to $42 million during this time. The return on these investments was 20-1 based purely on the total gross revenues produced for the British Columbia economy.
      • As a key and innovative marketing tactic AtBC created the Klahowya Village in Stanley Park in Vancouver, a key tourism gateway, and realized strong marketing success during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The overall ability for AtBC to execute success programs has ensured Klahowya Village has been successfully operated for four years.


      The current AtBC Five Year Plan is structured for another ten (10) million dollar investment to support six (6) Aboriginal cultural tourism industry established priorities:

      Push for Market-Readiness $3,250,000

      Build and Strengthen Partnerships $1,000,00

      Focus on Online Marketing $1,500,000

      Focus on Key and Emerging Markets $3,250,000

      Focus on Authenticity and Quality Assurance $750,000

      Regional Approach $500,000

      Total $10,250,000

      AtBC continues to receive annual support from two main funding partners. First the Provincial Government through the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training (MJTST) and their marketing crown corporation re-launched April 1st, 2013 Destination BC. Second the Federal Government though Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and their specific program envelope Strategic Partnership Initiative (SPI) and other departments such as Western Economic Diversification.

      The AtBC Five Year Plan supports an estimated budget of two (2) million per year to support training, product development, and marketing of Aboriginal cultural tourism.


      The current AtBC Five Year Plan outlines a strategy to support training, product development, and marketing from April 1st, 2012 – March 31st, 2017.


      AtBC is a province wide sector organization and continues to work with all Aboriginal community, entrepreneurs and tourism related businesses through British Columbia. The AtBC office is located in West Vancouver, BC but training, product development and marketing initiatives are implemented throughout the province.


      First Aboriginal tourism continues to have growing consumer demand with one (1) in four (4) visitors seeking an authentic Aboriginal tourism experience as part of their holiday experience. Based on independent research AtBC is confident consumer demand will continue to substantially increase in the future. A strong Aboriginal cultural tourism industry benefits the broad tourism industry in British Columbia.

      Second the Provincial Government's tourism strategy entitled "Gaining the Edge" identifies the policy framework for support of Aboriginal cultural tourism and the role of AtBC. The tourism industry is collectively working to increase tourism revenues to eighteen (18) billion by 2016. AtBC continues to support the overall objectives of the "Gaining the Edge" strategy.

      A third point is the challenges with funding for AtBC. AtBC considers its role similar to a Destination Marketing Organization. However, there are legislative limitations to support AtBC in terms of access to such funding. For example, marketing in British Columbia is supported by tax revenues from taxes applied to hotels throughout British Columbia. The additional tax is paid by the consumer and reinvested by the Provincial Government through approximately sixty (60) regional and municipal marketing organizations. AtBC cannot qualify to receive these tax revenues similar to that of the destination marketing organizations because AtBC is not a municipal or regional district which is required under the current legislation. AtBC thoroughly reviewed this option in 2012 but realized this was not an option to support future sustainability. Thankfully AtBC and the Provincial Government partners have reviewed other mechanisms to ensure funding support. The current partnership with the Provincial Government has enabled AtBC to leverage Federal Government resources to enhance the Aboriginal cultural tourism industry in British Columbia. This is a major benefit to the entire industry.

      In addition to the three points listed above consider the following reasons why:

      • The tourism industry is one of the largest economic sectors in British Columbia worth an estimated $13.5 billion to the BC economy as of 2013.
      • The Province wants to grow tourism to $18 billion by 2016 forecasting 5% growth each year.
      • The AtBC plans include extensive research about the current state of the Aboriginal cultural tourism industry.
      • The AtBC plans included extensive industry stakeholder consultations during 2011;
        • Two forums were held; March and November 2011 with participation from approximately 110 Aboriginal businesses involved in Aboriginal tourism. There were breakout sessions that assisted AtBC to identify regional and provincial priorities.
      • The AtBC plan was first drafted by AtBC management based on the success of programs created by AtBC that meet the needs of the Aboriginal business community designed between 2007-2012;
        • Trailblazer Training – Front line and business development programs
        • Community development workshops
        • Marketing workshops
        • Marketing campaigns
        • Social Media and Website support
      • AtBC identified research showcased growing consumer demand – 3.8 million visitors (1 in 4 visitors) seeking an Aboriginal tourism experience in BC in 2012 and expected to grow over the next 5 years.
      • The AtBC plans will provide over $320 million into the BC economy, up from $200 million provided to the BC economy during 2007-2012, and will provide support to the overall goal to increase tourism to $18 billion by 2016 for the Province.
      • The AtBC plans will provide approximately $65 million over the five years to municipal, federal and provincial governments through taxation. This is a substantial increase to taxation returns. Tax returns from 2007-2012 were an estimated $45 million.
      • The AtBC plans will provide approximately 4000 people full and part time jobs by 2017, up from 2300 in 2012.

      This background document provides a high level overview of the key messages and the significant economic impacts for British Columbia and Canada created by the AtBC plans for 2012-2017.

      Latest Opportunities

      Advisor, First Nations Relations

      Ministry of Forests
      April 8, 2022

      Executive Director, Environmental Monitoring and Analysis

      Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship
      April 7, 2022

      Aboriginal Support Worker

      District Principal Aboriginal Program
      April 7, 2022