One out of every three international visitors to Canada wants to participate in an Indigenous tourism experience. At the same time, experiential food tourism is being sought out by travellers around the world, making food & beverage a vital component of the visitor journey. In order to meet these parallel demands, Indigenous Tourism Ontario has prepared Feast: Growing Indigenous Food Tourism in Ontario, a strategy to guide Indigenous food tourism development in Ontario.
OUR VISION IS FOR INDIGENOUS FOODS AND FOODWAYS TO BE INTEGRAL PARTS OF ONTARIO’S IDENTITY
Food tourism includes any tourism experience where a person interacts with food and drink that reflects the local cuisines, heritages, or cultures of a place. Dining at a local restaurant, visiting a farm, or attending a cooking class are some examples of food tourism. The rise of food tourism stems from a shift to experiential travel where visitors are immersed in the culture of the place in a meaningful way. This is usually achieved through memorable interactions with the local people, food, and environment.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), “88.2% of destinations consider gastronomy a strategic element in defining their image and brand”. The intangible cultural heritage of food can also serve as a key point of differentiation and provide economic opportunities for less-visited destinations. Moreover, by increasing demand for local food, providing additional channels for its consumption, and celebrating local cultures, food tourism can contribute to community-building and sustainable local food systems.
INDIGENOUS FOOD TOURISM
Indigenous food today is not subject to one definition, one set of ingredients, or one story. It is a dynamic movement towards revitalization that balances a wide variety of traditional pre-contact ingredients and practices with contemporary additions, interpretations, and innovations. What does Indigenous food mean to the mosaic of Indigenous individuals, their communities, and Ontario’s Indigenous tourism businesses?
TELLING OUR STORIES, ON OUR TERMS
Food is integral to Indigenous cultures across Ontario. Harvesting, preparing, and sharing food are each important parts of cultural revitalization and act as vehicles for inter-generational knowledge transfer. The strong links between food and culture mean that Indigenous food tourism is one of the most intimate forms of cultural exchange that visitors can have. Within the Ontario Indigenous context, this could have valuable implications in the path towards Reconciliation. Indigenous Tourism Ontario believes that the development of food tourism can present an opportunity to protect, share, and celebrate our diverse Indigenous foodways while empowering Indigenous Peoples to be narrators of their own food traditions and protocols.
INDIGENOUS FOOD TOURISM DEVELOPMENT
ITO has been working with partners to develop FEAST: Growing Indigenous Food Tourism in Ontario, a first of its kind in the world. In 2019, we conducted research and engagement activities to develop a food tourism strategy for Northern Ontario. In early 2020, we repeated the process for Southern Ontario, and in late 2020 we braided the two strategies together, resulting in a 5-year Ontario-wide strategy for growing Indigenous food tourism. Guided by the five pillars: measure, co-create, empower, accelerate, and celebrate, we will work collaboratively with partners to implement the actions outlined in this strategy. Together, we can build on preceding work, harness opportunities, and respond to visitor demand while showcasing diverse Indigenous cultures in Ontario through genuine food moments.
ARE YOU READY TO GROW INDIGENOUS FOOD TOURISM IN ONTARIO?
Let us know how you can support the implementation of this strategy.