4VI’s (formerly Tourism Vancouver Island) mission is to make tourism a force for good on Vancouver Island—forever, and their collaboration with Vancouver Island-based Allied Certifications is a prime example.
Through Allied’s work with the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation and other First Nations, the two organizations aim to strengthen the bonds between tourist-based businesses and a number of First Nations on Vancouver Island.
The region of Tofino and the Clayoquot Sound sees nearly 1.2 million visitors annually. In Tofino alone, tourism supports $230 million in total GDP and $400 million in economic output. For years however, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, on whose unceded territory much of this economy thrives, was mostly a bystander. The Nation realized few of the economic benefits of tourism, but bore many of its impacts, from inflated housing costs and busy roads to pressure on community infrastructure and the environment.
This is where consulting firm Allied Certifications comes in, and where 4VI’s $25,000 grant helps them with their work with Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, and leads to further opportunities with other First Nations.
“When I first started working with the Tla-o-qui-aht in 2016, they were looking at how to turn the tribal park into a fruitful relationship with local tourism operators. They were also struggling to pay for the guardian stewardship program” says Julian Hockin-Grant, founder of Allied Certifications.
Hockin-Grant posed the question: does tourism continue to be a subtle extension of colonization, or does it become a force for change and de-colonization?
In 2018, Allied Certifications and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation launched Tribal Park Allies. This innovative and voluntary program invites businesses and organizations to sign a protocol agreement that commits them to contributing a 1% Ecosystem Service Fee to ƛaɁuukwiatḥ Tribal Parks (typically a 1% levy is added to the cost of an excursion, surf lesson, or hotel stay, which is then passed on to ƛaɁuukwiatḥ Tribal Parks.)
“We want to keep growing these numbers,” Hockin-Grant says. “At the same time, we provide support to businesses who want to shift the narrative from being solely about wilderness to a deeper and more nuanced and culturally connected story about the Tla-o-qui-aht. This is sometimes a difficult but honest and important conversation to have.”
4VI hopes this pioneering partnership will be a model for other First Nations in the Vancouver Island Region wanting to get more involved in tourism, while reaping the benefits of intentional visitation on their territories.
Brian Cant, VP of Business Impact and Engagement for 4VI, views it as a simple yet profoundly impactful model that builds on 4VI’s four pillars of business, community, culture and environment.
“Nobody thinks twice about paying $3.50 for a cappuccino. So, for less than the price of a coffee, a visitor to the Vancouver Island Region can make a positive difference in an Indigenous community,” Cant says.
Vancouver Island is home to 50 First Nations, each with its own needs, challenges and aspirations. For the Tla-o-qui-aht, the environmental impacts on their territory led them to adopt the tribal parks model. For other nations, addressing housing or economic development might be the focus that requires a unique partnership model.
“I think there’s a genuine interest in the tourism sector to find ways to work better with First Nations, whether you define it as reconciliation or just being a good neighbour,” Cant says.
Allied Certifications is currently in discussion with several First Nations and hopes to announce new projects this summer.
To learn more about the program, visit forvi.ca/about/impact.