Opaskwayak Wins Tourism Award
On March 9, Opaskwayak won the “Leading the Way in Business Development Award” at the 2023 Indigenous Tourism Awards in Winnipeg.
The Indigenous Tourism Awards were presented during the 10th annual International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC). The awards honour national and provincial Indigenous-owned tourism associations, businesses, entrepreneurs, and people from across Canada who have demonstrated exceptional work in leadership, partnership, development and marketing, and business ethic.
Chief Sidney Ballantyne; Councillor and Business Enterprises Chairman Derek Constant; Business Enterprises Board Member Henry Wilson; and Business Enterprises Economic Development Officer Darryl Bauer accepted the award for Opaskwayak, which recognizes a community-based business thriving in tourism and development at an inspiring rate.
“This is such a positive award for not only our community but the entire area,” said Chief Ballantyne. “The people of Opaskwayak have so much to offer and showcase and I am happy to see they are getting the recognition they finally deserve.”
“The people of Opaskwayak have so much to offer and showcase and I am happy to see they are getting the recognition they finally deserve.”
– Chief Sidney Ballantyne
“Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) is taking bold steps to become the premier cultural destination for Indigenous tourism in Manitoba,” wrote Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) in their press release about the awards. “More than a dozen new experiences and outfitters in the region saw significant development during the pandemic and most will be ready to launch in the near future, adding to an already robust line-up of tourism offerings in the area.”
“It was like winning an Oscar,” said Darryl Bauer about receiving the award. “It felt good to be recognized for all our behind-the-scenes work. Even though you can’t see tourism in action, it is happening and there is an economic impact to it: bookings at our hotel, using our gas station, eating at our food services, visiting our malls.”
In his role as Economic Development Officer, Bauer works with entrepreneurs in Opaskwayak, helping them to develop business plans for small and medium-sized businesses. He also sits on many arts and tourism boards, committees, and councils to help raise awareness about authentic Indigenous tourism.
“This award puts us on a pedestal,” says Bauer. “With reconciliation and the Indigenous tourism market increasing, government departments are going to be wanting to invest more in this because it only benefits the province.”
“With reconciliation and the Indigenous tourism market increasing, government departments are going to be wanting to invest more in this because it only benefits the province.”
– Darryl Bauer, Economic Development Officer
Jade Richards, Outstanding Staff Person Nominee
Jade Richards, the Assistant General Manager at the Kikiwak Inn, almost didn’t attend the awards this year due to a busy schedule at home
“One of my colleagues called me all excited,” said Richards. “She’s like ‘Jade, we have to go! You were nominated for an award!’”
Richards was nominated for the Outstanding Staff Person Award which recognizes a youth ambassador or Elder for their extraordinary dedication and exceptional performance while bringing passion for their culture and history and commitment to achieving excellence for the business in Manitoba.
Richards’ job at the Kikiwak Inn includes overseeing departments, creating initiatives to bring more guests to the hotel, keeping up with changes in technology, and helping to manage projects like the new Northern Tipi Camping Experience, which opens in May.
“It was very nice to be nominated and recognized,” says Richards, who credits the staff at the Kikiwak for their teamwork and bringing forward great ideas.
Richards recommends that entrepreneurs and community members working in tourism consider attending the IITC: a great learning opportunity and a chance to network with other professionals in the industry.
Next year’s conference will be held in unceded Algonquin Anishinaabeg Territory – Ottawa, Ontario, in 2024.