The federal government is investing $3.7 million in Saskatchewan tourism with over $900,000 of that investment earmarked for Indigenous tourism projects.

On Monday morning, at an event at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, announced the funding for 19 Saskatchewan tourism projects.

During his announcement, Boissonnault spoke highly of Canada’s tourism sector and how it is a driving force for a strong economy.

“By helping businesses and tourism operators innovate and add to their products and services, today’s announcement will attract visitors from all horizons for a memorable Canadian tourism experience, while supporting local jobs and economies,” said Boissonault.

The tourism minister also spoke on the continued demand for authentic Indigenous experience from visitors both foreign and domestic.

“This space, this place, what you represent is what the world wants to see,” said Boissonault speaking on Wanuskewin. “80 percent of the traveling public to our country want an authentic Indigenous experience and over 33 percent of Canadians want the same thing, we just have to tell them you are here.”

Among the 19 projects to receive funding are three Indigenous owned projects. Wanuskewin Heritage Park will receive $495,000, Shoal Lake Cree Nation will receive $155,000, and Westside Indigenous Experience out of Ile a la Crosse will receive $260,000.

“Through this funding, Wanuskewin is able to provide a world class guest experience, in an award winning facility,” said Wanuskewin CEO Darlene Brander. “This allows us to positively impact our city, province and country by ensuring that Wanuskewin achieve its mandate of advancing the understanding and appreciation of the evolving cultures of the Northern Plains Indigenous peoples”.

Westside Indigenous Experience is a tourism project aimed at bringing in visitors for an authentic Indigenous experience in the province’s north west.

Project coordinator Nap Gardiner says the funding is welcome and will be used to create a tourism strategy for the region.

“People are coming, they are coming year-round…and we can’t keep up with what is happening now, so we need to build the strategy to include infrastructure, marketing, and training for the short, medium, and long-term, so there is a lot of work to be done,” Gardiner told MBC Radio News.

Gardiner says the north west has a lot to offer and investments in the tourism sector can help bolster the economy in the region.

“We have significant historical context that hasn’t been told,” he said. “But we have never been able to articulate it to a point where it can really tell the story.”

The funding was made available through Canada’s Tourism Relief Fund, which is an allocation of $500 million over two years for for tourism sector initiatives. $50 million of the fund has been specifically dedicated to Indigenous tourism initiatives.

(PHOTO: Tourism Minister Randy Boissonault surrounded by representatives from several tourism organizations to receive funding. Shoal Lake Cree Nation Chief Norman Head on his left and Wanuskewin CEO Darlene Brander on his right. Photo by Joel Willick.)