It’s time to unlock tourism’s potential

Charmaine Willier-Larsen, of Sucker Creek, has a passion to build and promote tourism in the local Indigenous culture. She serves as treasurer of the newly-formed Indigenous Tourism Alberta.
Indigenous tourism has great potential, says advocate

Richard Froese
South Peace News

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 Willier- Larsen, area representative for Indigenous Tourism Alberta, 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.”

She welcomed the invitation to serve on the board, to represent the northwest region as one of seven members.

Locally, she has a vision to showcase the wealth of Indigenous culture and history in her home region in the High Prairie area.

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

It is a project Willier- Larsen is currently working on.

“I am participating in presentations and promoting ITA, connecting with organizations that represent economic development and tourism in the local area,” Willier-Larsen says.

“My goal is to inform stakeholders of ITA and what programs will be brought to northwest Alberta to support the future development of Indigenous tourism.”

She is well-known in the area for her entrepreneurial and cultural spirit.

“I am a proud Indigenous woman from the community of Sucker Creek First Nation, I practice my culture and for more than a decade I have owned and operated my own business in the community – Larsen’s General Store – including an ice fishing shack tourism business over the past few years,” Willier-Larsen says.

“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 working at the provincial level will help boost her goals and passions.

“I am excited to be involved with ITA because the organization fills a long-awaited need to support the development and marketing of Indigenous tourism in Alberta,” Willier-Larsen says.

“The industry of Indigenous tourism is growing quickly with the increased demand for authentic Indigenous experience and artesian product for national and international markets.”

She was inspired by ITA’s mandate and mission to provide leadership to develop and market authentic Indigenous tourism experience through partner- ships.

“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.”

As a board member, she contributed to develop the ITA Strategic Plan for 2019-24: Strengthening Alberta’s Indigenous Tourism Industry, the Business Plan was implemented in September 2018.

In partnership with Alberta Culture and Tourism, and the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, the ITA will launch the Tourism Entrepreneur Toolkit and Workshop, which will host workshops in northwest Alberta.

ITA will also launch an Indigenous Tourism Membership program that will help support members and further develop marketing content and assets for the website that will be launched in mid-November.

Seven tipis were part of the Treaty 8 Tipi Camp at the 2018 High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo, July 31 and Aug. 1. The tipis were set up at the rodeo for the first time in about 50 years. Cultural sessions were open to the public to attend. Many tourists visit such sites to learn about the culture of the local area when travelling. It is this type of activity locals can promote.
Dancers perform in colourful outfits at the Treaty 8 Tipi Camp at the 2018 High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo, July 31 and Aug. 1. Left-right, are Tina Isadore of Driftpile, Lisa Willier of Sucker Creek, and Isadore’s daughter, Blossom Isadore-Bellerose, 7.


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