Reggie Leach (former NHLer) and Waubetek General Manager Dawn Madahbee with Chief Clarence Louie of Osoyoos First Nation.

Reggie Leach (former NHLer) and Waubetek General Manager Dawn Madahbee with Chief Clarence Louie of Osoyoos First Nation.

By Barret Dokis

LITTLE CURRENT –Delegates to the Great Spirit Circle Trail’s (GSCT) 8th Annual Tourism Business Conference learned about the advantages of provincial involvement in developing Aboriginal tourism.

The 80 participants at the May 27-30 event – the first major conference staged at the new First Nations-owned Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre – heard from Keith Henry, CEO of Aboriginal Tourism B.C, about AtBC, the Aboriginal Tourism Strategy for British Columbia, which has helped increase aboriginal tourism revenues for the province by 100% since 2006.

Kevin Eshkawkogan, CEO for GSCT, then delivered a presentation about a similar strategy being crafted for Ontario.

Anishinabek  Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee had been briefed on the proposed initiative prior to the conference.

“A provincial strategy that is dynamic enough to meet the unique regional needs of First Nations communities and citizens in Ontario could prove extremely valuable if executed properly,” he said.

During the two days delegates learned about the current state of tourism and guidelines established to assist aboriginal tourism-based businesses. A number of successful business models were showcased.

Many of the workshops focused on technological tools that are now driving the industry and opening up new doors for businesses looking to access international markets.  Topics included how to enhance the “visitor experience” and quality control measures to ensure that customers and clients enjoy their experience and refer future business.

Guest presenters included Chief Clarence Louie of the Oosoyos Indian Band, Wab Kinew,  host of CBC Television’s acclaimed 8th Fire series, and Edmonton-based standup comedian Howie Miller.

Proceeds from an opening night reception were donated to support youth entrepreneurship programs and services for the area. A banquet featuring Chief Louie as speaker and Howie Miller providing entertainment was a 250-seat sellout.