By Haley Grinder

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The province of B.C. is renewing their show of support for Indigenous tourism businesses with a second financial aid boost. The decision was announced on Tuesday, Nov. 16, by B.C.’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.

Indigenous Tourism B.C. (ITBC) was granted $5 million in February earlier this year, creating the B.C. Indigenous Tourism Recovery Fund. It will now delegate an additional $3 million to the cause.

B.C. says the Recovery Fund helps the continued success of Indigenous tourism businesses, such as lodges, resorts, restaurants, outdoor adventure experiences, galleries, and gift shops through provided grants.

“These grants are reconciliation in action and support self-determination for Indigenous tourism businesses to showcase their territories, culture and people,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, in a press release. “Together with Indigenous Tourism BC, we are working to rebuild Indigenous-led tourism and return it to the thriving levels of growth we saw before the pandemic, resulting in a stronger future for everyone.”

The funds may be used by Indigenous business owners for staff wages, rent charges, and to keep the business running during the COVID-19 pandemic. With over 480 Indigenous tourism businesses among the 203 First Nations in B.C., the sector was considered the fastest-growing part of the tourism industry pre-pandemic, generating $705 million in gross domestic output, and creating 7,400 opportunities for full-time employment.

“ITBC has worked hard with stakeholders and provided a support system for businesses to continue operating during the pandemic,” said Brenda Baptiste, Chair of Indigenous Tourism B.C., in the release. “We are extremely grateful for the partnerships and work that we do with the tourism industry and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.”

The intake date for the recovery grant has not been set, but ITBC is confident it will be in the weeks to come.