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Wikwemikong wins national award as leader in Indigenous tourism

In 2023-2024 Wikwemikong Tourism is focusing on enhancing its premier events
Wikwemikong Tourism has won the Exceptional Industry Leader and Original Original Star Award. Photo supplied

Wikwemikong Tourism has won the Exceptional Industry Leader and Original Original Star Award at the International Indigenous Tourism Conference in Winnipeg. 

The award ‘recognizes an organization leading the way through the demonstration of excellence in all aspects of its business, such as marketing campaigns, Trip Advisor reviews, revenues generated, low staff turnover and repeat customers,’ according to a news release.

"Rebuilding after the crushing impacts of COVID-19 on the tourism industry, Wikwemikong Tourism, alongside the First Nation owned Point Grondine Park, demonstrated that Indigenous tourism is thriving in Ontario. Wikwemikong Tourism has been selected as a leader in Canada for its business acumen while developing quality authentic Indigenous experiences that immerse 
visitors in cultural learning and reconciliation in profound and meaningful ways," the release added.

Wikwemikong Tourism manager Luke Wassegijig accepted the award, saying, “It’s a tremendous honour to be recognized on a national level among the country’s best Indigenous tourism operators but more importantly this reinforces our vision to lead as champions of transformative Indigenous tourism experiences.

“This is the culmination of years of hard work and we are thankful for the support of our community and to our team who
have contributed over the years in creating a brand of Indigenous tourism that tells our story on Manitoulin Island.”

In 2022 tour revenues were the highest ever for Wikwemikong, surpassing pre-pandemic numbers in all categories including cruise tourism, schools, motor coach and individual travel.

In more recent years Wikwemikong Tourism has been making strides in the industry by taking their already unique brand of authentic cultural tours and developing them further. It has added a set of pre-colonial Indigenous culinary experiences that offer visitors hands-on exposure to ancient cooking methods and meals, in a newly built outdoor kitchen and dining area on the shores of Georgian Bay.

Additionally, the Point Grondine Park has seen exceptional growth over the last several years and is currently expanding its operations to include a campground and roofed accommodations. In 2023-2024 Wikwemikong Tourism through local partnerships, is focusing on enhancing its premier events such as the Wiikwemkoong Annual Cultural Festival, Anishinaabe Giizhigaat,
and the Manitoulin Ice Showdown, to ensure that demand for these events remains high, and they continue to be economic drivers on Manitoulin Island.

Provincially, Wikwemikong Tourism has developed a credible trail program by working with First Nations and municipalities in planning and building trail systems. More notably the program is credited for building the Bebamikawe Memorial Trail and Point Grondine Park. These initiatives, along with partnerships with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and Indigenous Tourism Ontario, are the reasons that Wikwemikong Tourism is contributing to building a stronger and more resilient Indigenous tourism industry in Canada.

Since 2008 its parent organization Wikwemikong Development Commission has been building a foundation for sustainable tourism development throughout their territory in the Manitoulin Island and Killarney region. Guided by the Wikwemikong Tourism Strategy, the community has been making investments in tourism infrastructure, marketing/branding, product and human resource development, and events steeped in cultural authenticity.

To learn more about Wikwemikong Tourism please visit their website and social media platforms @wikytours.