The Three Fires Collaborative Quest is a joint initiative aimed at supporting Ontario’s Indigenous tourism workforce to recover and grow the industry by building the labour pool and filling critical gaps. The program is the result of a partnership between the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO) and the Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC).

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in early 2020, the tourism and service industry were among the hardest hit, primarily due to all of the government-mandated restrictions. With the persistence of the virus and increasing interventions continuing well into 2021, many Indigenous businesses in the tourism industry fell victim to lost revenue, paired with sometimes increased operating costs and, as a result, job insecurity. Unfortunately, the hospitality and tourism sector had been experiencing labour shortages long before the pandemic, which then exacerbated the situation. Over the last two years, this has all led to some businesses having to close temporarily while some had to close their doors permanently.

With the easing of restrictions and the foreseeable future in mind, many businesses in the tourism sector have been finding ways to prepare for the influx of domestic and backyard tourism. Some operators may find themselves unprepared for the demands that will be placed on them due to the easing of restrictions and the new tourism landscape. With Ontario Indigenous tourism businesses in mind, The Three Fires Collaborative Quest was created.

The Three Fires Collaborative Quest has been designed to build capacity in the tourism workforce for the 2022 season with opportunities for tourism operators and Indigenous employees to participate. The program will be executed in three phases, each managed by one of the three respective partners.

Igniting the Three Fires

Fire One: Fall 2021

ITO’s Indigenous Business Advisory (IBA) Program will assist Indigenous tourism businesses in improving market-
readiness for the next season by providing support and one-on-one coaching. The program will address all areas of a tourism operation for business sustainability and success, and will follow market-ready standards established specifically for the Indigenous tourism industry.

Fire Two: Fall 2021

The second fire, managed by OTEC, will design and execute workshops to provide customized frontline, supervisory, and management training for over 100 Indigenous tourism employees, as well as those identified through the IBA group.

Fire Three: Winter 2021

The third fire, executed by TIAO, is an employee-to-employer matching event designed to bridge the gap between the other two fires by helping Indigenous tourism employees find employers, and conversely, tourism businesses (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) find employees. In addition, upon completion of the program, employers will be eligible to receive wage subsidies.

Program Benefits

For employees, whether you are just starting in the tourism industry or already have experience but are seeking new opportunities within the industry, this program will not only aid in skill development but also in job matching with operators for the 2022 season. The interactive workshops, online tools and coaching sessions will provide invaluable training for those in frontline, supervisory and ownership positions. The Three Fires program will aid employers by providing immediate financial support in the form of wage subsidies, which will enable Ontario operators to hire 125 Indigenous employees collectively.

With programs like the Three Fires Collaborative Quest, we are excited about the future of Indigenous tourism in Canada.