What is Indigenous Tourism?

What does 'indigenous' mean?
From country to country and culture to cultre, you may see different terms used to refer to indigenous people. From a dictionary perspective the term is defined as:
indigenous
adj (when postpositive, foll by to)
1. originating or occurring naturally (in a country, region, etc.); native
2. innate (to); inherent (in)
[from Latin indigenus, from indigena indigene, from indi- in + gignere to beget]
indigenously  adv
indigenousness , indigenity n
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 6th Edition 2003 HarperCollins Publishers
Internationally, the term ‘indigenous’ is used most broadly to refer to the first peoples of a given region but regional terms vary. Complicating this is that some of these other terms are considered, in some contexts or settings, to be either appropriate or inappropriate (in fact sometimes racist) to use.
 In Canada, we most commonly use the term Aboriginal peoples (note capitalization) to refer to the recognized three groups of indigenous peoples of Canada: First Nations, Metis and Inuk (or Inuit). The term ‘Indian’, while still a term found in the literature and in the architecture of Canadian government structures and bodies (E.g., the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs – the Indian Act) is viewed as less appropriate, and at times racist, by many – but it may also be the term of choice, or self-labelling by others. In Canada, the term native is seen by some as disrespectful – but is also viewed as quite appropriate in other contexts. In the US for example the term Native American is considered quite appropriate. In Canada the term, 'nation' (at least for First Nations people) is used most often to refer to the specific organized cultural governance group (e.g., the Tl'azt'en First Nation). Tribe or tribal group is less commonly used although in some cases refers to a broader governance organization or alliance of several nations together (e.g., Carrier Sekani Tribal Council).
In the US, the terms American Indian or Native American are considered appropriate and common. Organizationally, tribe or tribal group tend to be used relatively commonly within the U.S.
Above all - speak with respect
The reality is that while terminology and identity is important –intent is even more so. It is always best to ask what is appropriate in a given context and culture. If you are referring to someone from a specific nation – (e.g., Tl’azt’en) then use the appropriate terminology for that context.
Defining Indigenous Tourism
Indigenous Tourism can be defined as a tourism activity in which Indigenous people are directly involved either through control and/or by having their culture serve as the essence of the attraction
Aboriginal (cultural) tourism describes all tourism businesses that are owned or operated by
First Nations people, Métis, and Inuit people that incorporates an Aboriginal cultural experience
in a manner that is appropriate, respectful, and true to the Aboriginal culture being presented
(ATC, 2000).
A tourist visiting an aboriginal cultural tourism site may experience cultural tourism by looking
at a fish wheel and learning about the historical and modern day significance of salmon to the
local people. Interpretation is an important aspect of providing the visitor with a broad understanding of the local culture.
Some examples include:
  • Restaurants that serve indigenous food
  • Hotels, wineries and resorts owned by indigenous people
  • Museums or interpretive centers
  • Aboriginal eco-tourism businesses such as
− Whale watching & nature tours
− Northern lights viewing
− Dog sledding trips and trail riding
− Fishing and hunting expeditions


Why study indigenous tourism?
Indigenous tourism is one of the fastest growing sections of the tourism industry and indigenous  tourism can, if done well, provide opportunities to promote greater cultural understanding while increasing indigenous peoples capacity and economy.
For example, within British Columbia, Canada the Indigenous (commonly referred to as Aboriginal in Canada) tourism industry is expected to contribute over $50 million to B.C.'s economy by 2012 -- up from the approximately $35 million in 2005.
Who should study indigenous tourism?
As an important sector of the tourism industry and as a potential key element in community economic development, indigenous tourism is worth studying. Thus this is a subject worth consideration by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
The ability to analyze, critique, conceptualize and plan for key cultural and indigenous tourism experiences are critical skills for students. However, the roles that we play in indigenous tourism vary, however with who we are and who we represent.
Determining whether to engage in tourism, what to share with tourists, and who and how that is done is a decision that must be made by indigenous people directly.
As you explore the topic of indigenous tourism, ask yourself the following questions:
  • What perspective do I bring to this discussion?
  • What is the appropriate role that I play here?
For non-indigenous participants it’s equally important to be informed about, and knowledgeable about, indigenous tourism. While by no means the largest, this is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism economy – and the reality is that many of us work with tourists who are looking for authentic indigenous tourism experiences and we may be working with indigenous peoples to connect tourists to them, to help provide planning, training or marketing help in designing and delivering tourism products or just to be respectful and appropriate tourists ourselves.  Additionally, many of the special issues or challenges that face indigenous people in the tourism sector are shared in large part by communities – particularly those who are remote, rural and/or marginalized in some way.