Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht receive Indigenous Tourism awards | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht receive Indigenous Tourism awards

Ottawa, ON

Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations were honoured at the 2024 Indigenous Tourism Award ceremony for their new ventures that operate out of Tofino, B.C.

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) held their Gala Dinner and awards ceremony in Ottawa on the evening of Feb. 29. According to Tla-o-qui-aht member and Tin Wis Best Western Resort Assistant Manager Maria Clark, the award winners were kept secret until the gala.

According to Teresa Ryder, director of partnerships at Indigenous Tourism, this was their 11th Annual Indigenous Tourism Awards. Canadian tourism businesses that are at least 51 per cent Indigenous-owned and controlled are eligible. Awards are open to ITAC members in good standing that were open to visitors in 2023.

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation built Tsawaak RV Resort and Campground near their Tin Wis Best Western Resort. They quietly opened the resort in the summer of 2023 and, according to Clark, remained busy through the rest of the summer despite the fact that there was no marketing.

Tsawaak RV Resort and Campground offers 24 RV serviced sites along with 13 longhouse-style cedar cabins just a short walk from Mackenzie Beach. Clark says Tin Wis Best Western Resort managers have taken on the management of the new RV resort.

“It was fantastic grand opening even though we didn’t get to market it,” she said, adding they did very well for the summer of 2023. “We were nearly full every night through the rest of summer.”

To help get through their first slow winter season, the resort allowed long-term rentals.

Tsawaak RV Resort and Campground won their ITAC award in the category of Leading the Way in Business Development (Community-based), which recognizes a local business thriving in tourism development at an inspirational rate.

“Tsawaak RV Resort is deeply committed to ecological sustainability and cultural integrity, aligning with the values of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation's vision for a socially and ecologically just conservation economy,” reads the resort’s promotional material submitted to ITAC. “As part of the Tribal Park Allies community, they work tirelessly to support the protection and restoration of the Tribal Parks ancestral gardens, while also promoting the resurgence of Tla-o-qui-aht culture and governance.”

“Tsawaak RV Resort was a standout in the category for their commitment to building Indigenous tourism experience that supports the values of Tla-o-qui-aht,” Ryder stated in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa.

Ahousaht’s Ahous Adventures won the ITAC award for New Operator or Business that Launched a New Experience. This award recognizes a new operator or business that launched an Indigenous tourism experience in 2023.    

Launched in May 2023, Ahous Adventures invites visitors to explore Ahousaht territories through the Indigenous lens of the people that have lived on and stewarded the lands and waters for many generations.

According to their website, Ahous Adventures is an eco and cultural adventure tour company owned and operated by the Ahousaht Nation, that offers a variety of excursions within Ahousaht haḥuułii (territorial lands, waters and culture) including Tofino-based tours to Hot Springs Cove or for whale and bear watching.

“Ahous Adventures invites visitors to explore Ahousaht territories through the lens of the people who have lived on and stewarded these lands and waters since time immemorial,” states the Ahous Adventures website. “On our Tofino excursions visitors will learn about Ahousaht’s Indigenous culture, language, history and storytelling,”

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada partners with its provincial counterpart Indigenous Tourism BC for the development and marketing of authentic Aboriginal-owned experiences. It is a national non-profit Indigenous tourism industry organization established in 2015.

According to ITAC, their gala shines a spotlight on the transformative power of Indigenous tourism.

“And every year, this inspiring event not only acknowledges the accomplishments of local and national Indigenous tourism operators but also serves as a platform to elevate and promote Indigenous culture, heritage, and economic development,” stated the organisation. 

“It was exciting, really exciting,” said Clark of the awards ceremony.

She was surrounded by delegates and finalists from across British Columbia. There were four delegates from B.C. that were nominated for awards.

“It seemed that they called us all up, one after another we were announced – first was Ahous Adventures, then Takaya Tours, Bannock and Salmon and then Tla-o-qui-aht,” Clark shared.

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