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The founder of ATAC is helping to reshape how travelers connect with Canada's aboriginal communities

If the phrase “aboriginal tourism” conjures up images of kitschy performances and uncomfortable cultural appropriation, Keith Henry is intent on painting a different picture.

Imagine instead a dinner of fresh fish at Salmon n’ Bannock, a restaurant in Vancouver owned by a Nuxalk community member. Or a snowshoe trek to view the northern lights with members of the Métis and Dene cultures at their Aurora Village resort in the Northwest Territories. Or a wild medicine camp in the Yukon led by members of the Champagne and Aishihik community.

“There’s been a misunderstanding in the tourism industry about how to develop visits with aboriginal people,” he says. “These indigenous owners incorporate their culture into a whole range of things.”

Keith Henry
In 2015, Henry started the Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada, a consortium of 1,500 businesses owned by members of indigenous communities, to make it easier for travelers to find them and to make the experiences more rewarding for both visitors and hosts. The group has invested in training workers, improving facilities, and working with Destination Canada, which promotes travel to the country overall. Today, aboriginal tourism represents a small but growing slice of Canada’s tourism industry. In destinations such as British Columbia, 1 in 4 visitors say

Today, aboriginal tourism represents a small but growing slice of Canada’s tourism industry. In destinations such as British Columbia, 1 in 4 visitors say they want to engage with aboriginal communities during their trips. As Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017, it’s fitting that cultures dating back thousands of years should take center stage. 

“Canada is famous for our landscapes, and we have great cities, but aboriginal people are thriving here, too,” says Henry, a member of the Métis culture. “It’s what sets Canada apart.” 

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