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A Framework for Building Effective Partnerships for Indigenous Tourism

A paper prepared by Johnny Edmonds, Secretariat Coordinator World Indigenous Tourism Alliance, in support of a presentation to the International Aboriginal Tourism Conference 2014 on 15 April 2014, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. (WINTA Johnny Edmonds Presentation to IATC 2014)

Indigenous peoples contribute significantly to the enhancement of global diversity and sustainability through the maintenance of their traditional knowledge, cultural practices and irreplaceable natural resources. Indigenous peoples also seek and are entitled to all human rights established under international law to maintain their status as culturally distinct and self-determining peoples. When these two factors combine, they provide benefits not only for Indigenous peoples but for all peoples in all areas of society and especially through tourism. These benefits will increase as the world becomes more homogenous and Indigenous cultures provide differentiation, authenticity and the enrichment of visitor experiences.

Tourism and Indigenous culture have much to offer each other. However, in the history of tourism development, human rights violations have been frequently raised and denounced by human rights advocacy groups, NGOs, trade unions and other civil society organizations. Sadly Indigenous groups have often been the victims of such human rights violations.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous tourism leaders, acknowledge the dichotomy that tourism can present. On one hand tourism provides the strongest economic driver consistent with the restoration, protection and promotion of Indigenous cultures, and on the other hand it can also diminish and destroy those cultures especially when tourism activities impinge on the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination.

The promulgation of the Larrakia Declaration in 2012 by the tourism industry was one initiative taken to help address this dichotomy. This paper provides an Indigenous human rights perspective of the Larrakia Declaration as a framework for “Building Effective Partnerships for Indigenous Tourism” and makes three key observations:

  1. The World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) is the result of Indigenous self-determination;
  2. The Larrakia Declaration presents an important opportunity for WINTA and the tourism industry to take a unified and partnership approach to the implementation of Indigenous human rights through tourism;
  3. The tourism industry is well placed to provide a global leadership role in demonstrating that successful, responsible business and the rights of Indigenous peoples are mutually beneficial.

I acknowledge the Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations peoples, as the rightful owners of the lands and waters of the Whistler region.