Ottawa Tourism, Algonquin College join forces to boost Indigenous-owned enterprises

Michael Crockatt
Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt speaks at Thursday's event launching the Indigenous tourism entrepreneurship training program. Photo courtesy Ottawa Tourism

Ottawa Tourism is teaming up with Algonquin College on a new 10-week training program aimed at helping Indigenous entrepreneurs bring their tourism business ideas to life.

Starting Sept. 29, participants in the online course will receive a crash course in business and marketing in a bid to boost Indigenous-owned tourism operations. Algonquin College’s Discovery, Applied Research, and Entrepreneurship District will run the program, which will wrap up with a “pitch weekend” where entrepreneurs will have a chance to showcase their businesses.

“Where the DARE District has the capacity and the experience to undertake learning in an Indigenized environment, our partners at Ottawa Tourism have the expertise on what makes for a strong tourism experience,” Ron McLester, Algonquin College’s vice-president of truth, reconciliation and Indigenization, said in a statement. 

“Together, we can provide Indigenous entrepreneurs and learners who are interested in starting their own tourism business with the tools necessary for success.”

Tuition for the $500,000 program will be free thanks to funding from a pair of federal agencies, the Canadian Experiences Fund and FedDev Ontario. 

Ottawa Tourism says the program is “specifically tailored for Indigenous tourism entrepreneurs” and will use traditional Indigenous teaching methods such as storytelling.

Graduates will get access to Ottawa Tourism-run networking events, workshops and professional development opportunities, and the agency will provide one-on-one guidance for eligible graduates interested in applying for Ottawa Tourism’s Destination Development Fund for specific projects.

Ottawa Tourism says the program will help diversify the capital’s roster of attractions.

“Visitors to Ottawa are looking to connect with Canada’s soul, and an integral part of this is learning about Indigenous cultures,” Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt said. “Ottawa Tourism looks forward to supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs’ new tourism businesses and marketing those experiences to our visitors.”