Aboriginal Participation in Tourism Planning in British Columbia
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Tourism has been identified as a strategy for Indigenous communities worldwide to adopt in order to stimulate economic and social development. The goal of this research was to evaluate Aboriginal participation in tourism and the role it plays in economic and social development of Aboriginal communities. This research also addressed Aboriginal participation within the context of a mega-event, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The need for this research came from the common acceptance that tourism can be an effective development strategy for Aboriginal communities. However existing literature is often case-specific with limited research focusing on Canada. Additionally, limited research had addressed Aboriginal participation in Olympic planning and hosting. The goal of this research was met by examining Aboriginal tourism development in British Columbia (BC), Canada, ultimately addressing the aforementioned gaps in the literature. This research used a qualitative approach to investigate Aboriginal participation in tourism planning in British Columbia, Canada. The objectives guiding this research are as follows: (1) To identify the types of involvement; (2) To evaluate the extent of involvement; (3) To explore the relationship between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal tourism-related businesses, associations and institutions; and (4) To identify the significance of Aboriginal tourism to the Aboriginal community, British Columbia and Canada. The findings of this research indicate that although Aboriginal tourism in BC has evolved considerably in recent years to establish a place in Non-Aboriginal tourism, it requires more support to grow the sector. As well, the Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia (AtBC) appears to be guiding the future of the sector through the continued implementation of the ‘Blueprint Strategy’. This research revealed that there are still considerable barriers that inhibit Aboriginal participation in tourism. Until these barriers are addressed, an increase in Aboriginal participation in tourism, particularly in ownership and management capacities, is limited. Participants reported that Aboriginal involvement in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase Canada’s Aboriginal culture on an international stage. It also highlighted the collaborative relationships between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal. Participants also reported that tourism could help increase cross-cultural understanding, while diversifying Aboriginal communities. Future research should be directed towards understanding the effects of increased Aboriginal participation in tourism; the role tourism can play in capacity building; and finally, the economic contributions Aboriginal tourism can make to the tourism sector. The main conclusion drawn from this study is that BC has been able to encourage and support Aboriginal participation in tourism. Although there is much opportunity to grow the sector and increase participation in ownership and management capacities, the Aboriginal tourism sector is currently being guided towards a successful future. There are many Aboriginal tourism successes happening in BC that could be used as models for other regions in Canada and around the world.