With a rich history, traditions, and arts and crafts, the NWT’s Aboriginal tourism is a burgeoning sector that attracts visitors from around the world. The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) offers programs, services and supports to foster growth in this exciting sector.
Q&A with ITI’s Aboriginal Tourism Development Officer
Douglas Dillon has worked as the Aboriginal Tourism Development Officer with ITI for the last five years. In that time he has seen great progress made with Aboriginal and cultural tourism in the territory and he’s excited for where it will go from here.
Q: Why did you decide to get into this type of work?
A: I’ve always been interested in tourism. Even at a young age, I was a tourism ambassador without realizing it. I grew up in Deline and people would fly in for fishing trips on Great Bear Lake. I also spent summers in Tulita and I’d make personal connections with the visitors who came for canoeing trips. In both communities, visitors were curious about local stories, the Hudson’s Bay Company, how the community came to be, traditional activities and culture. I would answer their questions and share my knowledge.
I’ve always had an instinct of how to connect people with their destination. When the opportunity for this job came along it was something I was excited to do. Aboriginal tourism falls in line with recreation, relaxation and healthy living.
Q: What does your role as the Aboriginal Tourism Development Officer involve?
A: I provide advice and support to Aboriginal governments, tourism businesses and groups. I act as a liaison for the department, coordinate workshops, and conduct Aboriginal tourism research and initiatives.
Q: Why is Aboriginal tourism so important in the NWT?
A: In the NWT we have unique cultures and traditions that are still practiced from ancient history. Aboriginal tourism is a way for the NWT to revive its cultural practices and revive its languages.
Cultural events, like drum dances, hand games and fiddling in the NWT are big celebrations.
If you’ve ever been to a drum dance you’ll understand how it captivates you. The sound grabs your attention and resonates through you. These experiences bring people together and make the community stronger. People act as a family unit. So, when visitors come and are invited to take part in these cultural events, they’re being invited to become part of that family unit.
Aboriginal Tourism Champions Program
Did you know that ITI has a specialized program that selects ambassadors to help develop, expand and improve authentic Aboriginal tourism products and initiatives in the NWT? The Aboriginal Tourism Champions Program does just that! Selected champions help support economic growth in local communities, preserve local culture and language and encourage interest and pride in younger generations in their culture, history and heritage.