The official grand opening of the 2019 International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC) was held on Wednesday morning, bringing the largest conference of its kind in the world to Kelowna.
The event featured three days of inspiring stories and transformational experiences in an attempt to unite the tourism industry.
This year’s conference theme is “Inspire. Transform. Unite. Accelerating Indigenous tourism growth.”
“I think this is an amazing opportunity to bring together people from across the nation, across the continent and — from what I understand — around the world to discuss something that’s very important,” said Westbank First Nation Chief Chris Derickson.
“We need to remain authentic to who we are — what our culture is, what our land teaches us, what our language teaches us — and not try to be something that somebody from some other country wants us to be or thinks we should be as Indigenous people. If we can keep that at the heart of Indigenous tourism, we can keep the experience authentic.”
The opening procession featured dancers and drummers from the host nations, Syilx, Nlakápamux and Secwépemc, in a showcase of Okanagan culture to those in attendance.
“They’re the beauty of our community,” said Jordan Coble a council member for Westbank First Nation.
“They’ve served as that reminder for us to take pride in what we do, take pride in how we do it and to dance like everybody’s watching.”
The conference concludes on Thursday evening with the national and regional Indigenous Tourism Awards Gala, at 6:30 p.m.