Indigenous tourism has great potential, advocate says

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

A vast range of local Indigenous culture and history has great potential to enhance tourism in the High Prairie region.

That’s the passion of Charmaine Wilier-Larsen, area representative for Indigenous Tourism Alberta (ITA), and a Sucker Creek First Nation councillor.

“Our strategy is to grow Alberta’s Indigenous tourism economy by inspiring local, national and international visitors to experience Alberta’s Indigenous culture and history,” says Willier-Larsen. “I am excited to share our culture and create employment and economic development in Alberta.”

Locally, Willier-Larsen has a vision to showcase the wealth of Indigenous culture and history.

“I envision a ‘cultural village’ to create employment opportunities and practicing our culture and regaining pride in our nation,” she says.

It’s a project Willier-Larsen is working on, by making presentations, promoting ITA and connecting with organizations that represent economic development and tourism.

“My goal is to inform stakeholders of ITA and what programs will be brought to northwest Alberta,” she says.

Willier-Larsen is well known in the area, for her entrepreneurial and cultural spirit. She has owned and operated Larsen’s General Store in Joussard for the past few years, which includes ice-fishing shack rentals.

“As a member of the community and a business owner, I understand the importance of partnerships to support the development of the industry,” she says.

Willier-Larsen says Indigenous tourism is growing quickly, as demand for authentic experiences expands. As a board member of ITA, she contributed to the development of a strategic plan for the five-year period from 2019 to 2024. In partnership with Tourism Alberta, ITA will be hosting workshops in northwestern Alberta for tourism entrepreneurs.

“I strongly believe in giving our Indigenous people an opportunity to share our culture and the ability to create an economic opportunity out of that,” she says.

In addition to the planned workshops, ITA will launch an Indigenous Tourism Membership program that will support members, develop marketing content and assets for the ITA website (indigenoustourismalberta.ca), which is to be launched this month.

Charmaine Willier-Larsen

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