Friday, June 6

Aboriginal tourism: Responding to market segmentation trends

(Originally published in TOURISM)

He may not be of Aboriginal ancestry, but tourism planner Jacques Drapeau’s well-weighed comments make him the perfect ambassador for the soon-to-be-open Huron Wendat Nation Hotel-Museum, at Wendake, on the outskirts of Québec City. With its 55 rooms, this new 4-star facility on the Saint-Charles River draws both from the Huron Wendat culture, and from the relationship the Huron Wendat are keeping with the rest of the world through nature, spirituality and mythology.

“When we arrive here, we get a sense that the facility is composed of two parts: a tepee‑shaped structure houses the museum, and another connected structure – inspired by a traditional longhouse – where the accommodations, restaurant, and reception area are located. The restaurant can welcome 120 guests and will serve many dishes influenced by Aboriginal culinary traditions. There are also meeting rooms, various foyer areas for special functions and even massage facilities.”

Wood was used extensively as a building material, both inside and outside the establishment. All the facades of the museum and hotel are wood‑clad; the organic material is used decoratively and – as a clearly visible structural feature of the building – tree trunks act as pillars in many instances. There is much stonework as well, integrated with the exterior foundation and used strategically in public areas inside, as well as in floor systems in the bedrooms.

“The natural environment in which we are located permeates all aspects of the hotel experience,” notes Drapeau, whose consultancy was hired to help guide the project. “Instead of being confined to a hotel room, there is a living environment all around for guests to enjoy. Plus, the hotel is adjacent to the “Corridor des Cheminaux”, a former railway bed converted into the longest bike route in the Québec City region. On the grounds, there will be medicine‑themed and other types of gardens, hiking trails throughout the woods, and a pond filled with fish for guests to discover.”

The Huron Wendat Nation Hotel‑Museum proudly displays symbols unique to the First Nation, such as the turtle and the snake which are visible in various forms. Even the longhouse‑shaped accommodations complex meanders slightly, to mimic the snake’s movement.

Exactly who is the target market for this evocative new establishment? A clever mix of market segments, explains Jacques Drapeau: “Being a capital city, Québec is home to a good number of head offices, beside federal and provincial government institutions. We believe they will be interested by what is offered here, because we are a little off the beaten path. The advantage of holding meetings and events at Wendake is substantial when one realizes that once they are here, meeting participants are somewhat captive. Yes, people will be able to walk around Wendake, but we are some distance away from the recreational opportunities available in Québec city. Nowadays, organizations aim to rein in meeting participants, because it gets more and more expensive to hold meetings. Instead of hitting downtown at lunch, our guests will be able to go for a short walk in the forest or along the river. This is a competitive advantage that we will highlight when we approach clients in the MC&IT sector,” quips Drapeau.

Because the hotel is on the outskirts of Québec City, the market study demonstrated that in order to succeed, it had to be a higher‑end hotel. Current trends indicated that additional lure was needed, in the form of a minimum four‑star rating.

“We have already started to approach multipliers like wholesalers who are active on the European market, because there are clearly affinities there with the experiences we will offer. Latin America is an emerging market which we believe will yield positive outcomes. In the US, we believe our clients will be interested in a hotel like this for their Québec capital region events. And of particular interest will be the First Nations market. Up until now, First Nations meetings occurred mostly downtown Québec.” Because the Huron‑Wendat Nation is the local host nation, he explains, it would make sense for First Nations to gather at a hotel located on their territory.

“Yet, for our local clients, not only in the corporate sector but also for schools and seniors’ markets, the Hotel‑Museum will be an ideal excursion destination, given that the community‑owned establishment has joint museum‑hotel functions, something which is unique in Canada, and which imparts an innovative character to the operation.”

Because of its mid‑sized capacity, the weddings and family reunions sector is also an attractive one for the property, Drapeau points out. He notes that the hotel‑museum project raised a few eyebrows among its owners at various stages of development: “It is a major undertaking. That was to be expected from the Huron Nation, as it would be of Québec City citizens in general if put in a similar situation. Many questions were asked, but now that the project is completed, and the population is much more aware of the reasons why the hotel is a valid project, the focus turns more to the additional visitors it will generate for local businesses, retailers, restaurants, and other services.”

Drapeau predicts there will be unparalleled growth in the community as a result, because up until now, visitors only came to Wendake on a round‑trip from Québec city. From now on, visitors will be able to stay in Wendake.

Wanuskewin: governing for authenticity

Photo: Claude-Jean Harel

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Wanuskewin Heritage Park, on the west bank of the South Saskatchewan River five kilometres north of Saskatoon, includes seven hundred and sixty acres, with nineteen sites that represent the Northern Plains Peoples: summer and winter camp sites, bison kill sites, tipi rings and a boulder alignment known as a medicine wheel, all found within one kilometre of each other.

Almost 20 years ago, an award‑winning and elaborate interpretive centre was designed and built to reflect the character of the site as a historical gathering and meeting place over 8000 years of First Nations history. Wanuskewin still fulfills that meeting place role, providing a rich variety of programming for tours, which can be customized to fit into workshops, retreats, and companion events for conventions.

Wanuskewin's mission is to operate – under the leadership and guidance of First Nations people – a heritage site that contributes to increasing public awareness, understanding and appreciation of the cultural legacy of the Northern Plains First Nations people. Wanuskewin's governance structure is unique, with a wide range of partnerships and founded on the idea of a cooperative relationship between Aboriginal and non‑Aboriginal peoples. There are two governing boards:

Wanuskewin Indian Heritage Incorporated (WIHI) has thirteen members who are representatives of First Nations bands, districts, or cultural nations of Saskatchewan. WIHI was established to review planning for development of the Park, including cultural programming, traditional land use, and ceremonial and spiritual matters. WIHI ensures that the needs of First Nations people are met and an authentic and unique experience is provided for all visitors to the Park.

The operating board – Wanuskewin Heritage Park Authority (WHPA) – has twelve directors composed of both Aboriginal and non‑Aboriginal peoples and is the umbrella group for the partnerships that form Wanuskewin. The board members include representatives from WIHI, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the City of Saskatoon, the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan, the University of Saskatchewan, the Meewasin Valley Authority and the Friends of Wanuskewin.

Canada's Significant 29 Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Experiences

(Originally published in TOURISM)

provided by Aboriginal Tourism Canada in partnership with the Canadian Tourism Commission

Atlantic (Nfld/Labrador/PEI)
Miawpukek Annual Pow wow

Bathurst Inlet Lodge

Nova Scotia
Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada

New Brunswick
Metepenagiag Heritage Park

Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations
Aventure Mikuan II – Innu
Croisières Essipit
Bercé par l’Harricana
Cruise North Expeditions (Kuujuaq, Nunavik)
Nunavik Arctic Survival Training Centre (NASTC)

Aboriginal Experiences – Turtle Island
Great Spirit Circle Trail
Canadian Cultural Tours
Temagami Anishnabai Tipi Camp
Cree Village Ecolodge

Manito Ahbee - Festival for all Nations and Bannock Point

Wanuskewin Heritage Park Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Batoche National Historic Site of Canada

Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Nakoda Lodge and Conference Centre

British Columbia
Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay Linagaay
NK’MIP Resort
Quw’utsun Cultural and Conference Centre
Aboriginal Journeys
St.-Eugene Golf-Resort-Casino and the Ktunaxa Nation Interpretative Centre
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Great River Journey Inc.

Northwest Territories
Aurora Village