There are many faces behind the warm welcome visitors receive in communities across Canada. From baristas and brewers to designers and festival directors to historians and hotel owners, the richness of our diversity—and our niceness—can all be found in Canada’s tourism industry.
Travel is the heartbeat of our communities. We can’t wait to welcome you back.
Nick Dangeli is an Indigenous dancer, singer, actor, screenwriter, film director and producer from seven different nations: Nisga’a, Tsimshian, Tlingit, Haida, Gitxsan, Tsetuate and Colville.
"Nick Dangeli is an Indigenous dancer, singer, actor, screenwriter, film director and producer from seven different nations: Nisga’a, Tsimshian, Tlingit, Haida, Gitxsan, Tsetuate and Colville.
We don’t share borders; we share community and culture. Today I am doing what I only dreamed of as a young boy. Growing up in Washington state and Vancouver, I was very shy. It was singing and dancing in front of many audiences that I found my voice and passion for storytelling. From our connections to traditional territories to how vibrant and living our culture is across Canada, there are so many amazing stories to tell. I feel I am only just beginning.
While the pandemic has made many of our community celebrations difficult, I encourage everyone to experience them when we can. From the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival each spring to the Nisga’a Hobiyee celebration which marks the new year and waxing of the crescent moon each February. Everyone is always welcome."
Sharon Rose Ransom is a drummer, teacher and owner of Ransom Drum Lab based in Woodstock, Ontario.
"I am a small town Canadian girl who happens to be passionate about drumming. I love performing and being part of Canada’s music scene. I love teaching people how to drum. When you are passionate about something, it is so important to follow your dream, to know your story and your gift matters. The drum community across Canada is so collaborative, so welcoming – no matter what level of player you are.
Even before the COVID lockdown I decided to offer virtual lessons. Little did I know! I have students ranging from age 6 – 70 or older, and from across Canada, Hawaii, California. It’s amazing to watch my student base grow.
My favourite spots in Canada for music and watching other drummers perform are Toronto and Montreal. Two completely different scenes, but equally amazing. I miss performing and watching live performances, yet our drum community is strong and growing. I can’t wait to get back out there!"
Oyuna Senge is a Mongolian contortionist and hand balancer performing for Cirque du Soleil for more than 15 years.
"Canada was the first country I travelled to, outside my home country of Mongolia. I was 11 years old when I came to Montreal to train with Cirque du Soleil. I remembered being in awe of all the beautiful nature and being surrounded by people from so many different cultures.
My first performance was to 2500 people in Toronto. My future husband was in the audience with his mum. We met years later as we travelled the world to perform, and now the culturally rich city of Montreal is home.
The pandemic has forced us to stay home, which is very unusual for us. When it is safe, I can’t wait to perform again. But also to travel to see the Rockies and visit British Columbia for the first time. This country has so much space, and much to explore. I feel very blessed to be living here now."
Jim Muir is an experienced horseman and volunteer horse trainer at Cheekye Ranch in Squamish, British Columbia.
"I started riding at age 7 and my dream was always to train wild horses. Cheekye Ranch horses are special, as we are literally giving them a second chance. They are the reason people come here and we’ve experienced a groundswell of support in this last year.
Before COVID many people were losing touch with nature and animals. Working with these horses forces you to slow down. They can sense stress in a person from a mile away, so it is important that you leave it behind when you come here. We attract many different people of all ages, from those who used to ride horses to those who are learning to ride and be with horses for the first time. I see how people change when they connect with their horse. It is a powerful therapy that forces you to block out the rest of the world. In learning about the horses, our guests also learn a lot about themselves."
Dennis Thomas is a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Business Development Manager for Takaya Tours in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
"I love introducing people to our territory and culture, where we have lived as a Nation for over 10,000 years. Our stories are as important today as they were back then. A silver lining to last summer was that so many people who live in BC discovered us and our experiences for the first time. For so long our history was hidden and buried. With financial support from various provincial and federal partners, we were able to welcome local visitors and offer a window into our ancient culture within this urban setting.
While I am most proud of our canoe trips, with the pandemic and the need for social distancing, our kayaking business grew incredibly this summer. We always provide guides and interpret the world we see around Burrard Inlet with our stories and knowledge. I hope we can offer our canoe journeys again soon."
Melo Omat is a Congolese dancer and teacher. He is the owner of UpLift514 in Montreal, Quebec.
"Montreal brought back my passion for dance. The city has a wonderful multicultural vibe and I fell in love with dancing all over again when I moved here from the Congo. My business, Uplift 514, is about teaching afro-urban rhythms and everyone is welcome. While nothing beats the energy of being together and performing on stage, virtual classes have expanded my dance community globally. I believe that dancing is keeping us healthy mentally and physically right now.
When travel opens up again, I have so much to see across Canada and dancers to connect with--Vancouver, Saskatoon and Calgary are at the top of my list. In my dreams I would love to bring my global students to Canada and host dance camps. But first I want to learn from Indigenous dancers and share our choreography, our moves. Our dances have much in common, both a celebration of life and nature."
Amber Champion is an ocean kayaking and SUP guide and owner of Blue Dog Kayaking on Vancouver Island.
"Growing up in Ontario, I always loved the water. Now living on the West Coast, the ocean is my playground and wellness centre. It’s here that I am truly at home. I became part of the company to promote my teaching and guiding skills and reach my goal of shaking up the paddling community. I am proud to be one of the youngest and highest-level coaches in Canada, specifically working with women paddlers.
While the pandemic forced me to slow down, it revived my passion for introducing people to ocean paddling. In Canada, you have everything you could want when it comes to outdoor recreation and travelling across Vancouver Island is like experiencing completely different countries, the scenery is so dramatic and different. Canada’s guiding certification ensures paddlers will be safe but also equipped to fully enjoy connecting to nature and the power of the waves."
"This summer’s lockdown could have been devastating to Indigenous Fashion Week (IFW), typically held in Toronto, but looking back it actually helped me expand. Closed borders restricted participation by international Indigenous designers was disheartening. However the trust shown by so many who shipped their art across the country allowed the IFW to go ahead and attracted an expanded virtual audience with four runway films, 10 panel discussions and an online marketplace, which sold out in one day!
It is so important to me that we are not seen as selling trends, but injecting meaning into Indigenous art and fashion by putting the intergenerational stories told by makers, artists, hunters, weavers and other members of the design community centre stage. Storytelling at this level can be more powerful in person and I hope that when IFW returns in two years, it will marry the best of both the virtual and in-person worlds."
"Timing was not on my side when I launched a series of tiny vacation cabins perched on a wooded lot in Whitehorse. Despite the challenges of last year, I discovered the demand is there. The Yukon and the North attract a unique type of visitor who embrace the environment and celebrate innovative design that supports the conservation of nature.
My love of design and creating spaces for people to meet and enjoy nature is what drew me to launch a tourism business. The cabins are considered a ‘landscape hotel’ for the eco-attributes and ability to blend in, allowing the surrounding natural beauty to be fully experienced. The uniqueness of the design–the small 300-sq-ft-size allowed me to invest in higher end touches–has garnered significant interest and word of mouth is spreading. For me, the future of tourism is still bright and an important part of my community."
Christina Coady and her husband Chris Conway, brewers and owners of Landwash Brewery in Newfoundland.
"My husband and I never thought we could come home from Toronto to work but when we saw Newfoundland and Labrador’s craft beer industry heating up, we knew we had to get in fast. Landwash is a term for the beach, where the sea meets land; where families and friends come together. Mount Pearl, a neighbouring city to St John’s, is surrounded by other towns and essentially landlocked. So, we have created our own “beach” and our own community gathering place where all are welcome.
Without the collaboration of the local craft beer community, we would not have made it through the pandemic. We believe a rising tide raises all boats. Together we advocated for online retail and curbside pick-up. We began canning and selling our beer across the province and the local support is fantastic. We are very proud of Newfoundland and Labrador’s craft beers and tap rooms, and we can’t wait to share them with the world."
"We didn’t know what to expect on the opening day of our summer market. Over 1,000 people showed up. That was my first ‘wow’ moment. Then I knew we’d found a home here in Edmonton.
Our recent weekend e-marketplace attracted over 3,000 people and we hope to expand it into a year round platform. We have created a safe place for Black people across Edmonton to share their culture and their businesses. These entrepreneurs face barriers in business such as fair access to venture capital funding, and we just wanted to remove as many as possible so they can be successful.
We were inspired by the Black Owned Market in Calgary, and our goal is to expand to other cities across the country. We provide a way for locals and visitors to experience our diverse culture in a safe and inclusive space. It’s very special knowing our market is a catalyst to connection between Black-owned businesses and the larger community, one that can thrive during and after the pandemic."
"Nunavut will always be my home. The tattoo on my chin is a reflection of who I am, it shows my love and pride of Inuit culture.
My soap company, Uasau, reaches people from far away and spreads my love of Nuna [a term used by the Inuit to mean an authentic Inuit land], the land, sea, sky and memories that surround me. Uasau allows me to share our old ways with the new. Over 100 years ago, we lost the bowhead whale from our waters. Today the bowhead oil we use in our soap is liquid gold—-, it is that healing.
People all over the world are learning about the North and they want to be part of the beautiful change happening here. They want to learn of a story that is older than Canada. When visitors come back, I will take them on the land, share my culture and show how powerful it is. It is our time now."
Desmond Mentuck is an Interpretation Coordinator for Parks Canada in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.
"I am an Anishinaabe interpreter for Parks Canada and it is important for me to share my language and stories of the land. I love how these stories connect with visitors, particularly children. Everyone is here to learn, they soak it up. They come thinking it is about history, but it is also about the present and the future. I hope our stories add meaning to their lives for years to come.
This year has brought a major change to our world. I reflect on what it must have been like when the pandemic hit 100 years ago, how we survived then and are surviving now. My hope is that my children and my community continue to protect our language, our land and our way of life. We must remember how this keeps us resilient and we must share our knowledge."
Pooja Rajmohan is the Director of Sales at The Algonquin Resort - Autograph Collection in St Andrew's, New Brunswick.
"I am lucky to have worked in large global cities, and to call myself a global nomad. Having lived in Fiji most recently, I was looking for a change and The Algonquin Resort and St. Andrews by the Sea called to me—it is a place like nowhere else. Having lived in some of the most populated places in the world, this elegant seaside town surrounded by nature has only 1800 people. Here you have the luxury of space.
Since I arrived earlier this year, never have I felt so welcome, so included and already, it is home. Perhaps it is because this town thrives on tourism. We have a symbiotic relationship. If the Algonquin is successful, the town is successful.
This year we were humbled by the faith New Brunswickers had in us by choosing to visit. Many had never experienced our 130 years of history and our vibrant seaside town. Next year we hope to welcome back more Canadians and global visitors. We can’t wait to share our maritime hospitality with the world."
David Paterson is the General Manager and Winemaker at Tantalus Winery in Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
“I grew up and did my wine making training in New Zealand. Canada wasn’t even really on my radar, but I came back to my birthplace of BC for love and was surprised by the richness of community I discovered in the Okanagan. There is also something very compelling about the balance of fruit, acid and young vines that are getting older—all the things we need to craft wines of longevity that you don’t see in many established wine regions. Both are keeping me here.
I count the entire restaurant industry as my community. They have been integral to our success at Tantalus. Many small restaurants, bars and local wineries rely solely on visitors to buy their food and wine. I was really proud of Canadians this year for taking the opportunity to explore their own backyards. Their reactions to what we had to offer at the winery were amazing. While we saw fewer people, we saw many for the first time and we had the opportunity to really share our story and the story of BC wine.”
Meet Marie-Ève and Judith
Marie-Ève Cournoyer and Judith St-Pierre are the Founders and Fly Fishers at La pêche est belle in Charlevoix, Quebec
"When we’re on the river together, we talk about beautiful things. Life is all around us: nature, friendship, wildlife. When women fish together, there is no pressure, no stress. We were surprised by the demand. Everywhere there are women who want to learn to fish. We have a waiting list! It used to be fathers and sons, now it is mothers and daughters. We are changing the world of fly fishing.
This summer was hard on us, there was so much uncertainty. We had to cancel a lot of trips and re-imagine the experience. In the future, our hope is to expand across Canada. For now, we have our favourite rivers to visit but there are many more in Canada to discover. Our dream is to share our passion for fishing with women across the country. Tourism is our future."
Meet Captain Perry
Captain Perry Gotell is the Owner, Operator & Captain at Tranquility Cove Adventures in Georgetown, Prince Edward Island
"I was a third-generation fisherman and it was a fantastic life. Then I saw an opportunity and branched out to start taking visitors to a local island where my family spent summers. I discovered all these stories locked up within me and it was such a joy to share them. Storytelling is as big a part of my business as digging and cooking clams, and I found a way to make it my job. I was in that sweet spot where I was making money loving what I was doing—introducing visitors to the island I call home and sharing the history of my family.
With a view of the water from wherever you stand in town, coastal Georgetown is an idyllic place for our business. Home to 500 people, we have all worked together and built a special place. You see visitors in the restaurants, playhouse and gift shops because it is a cool spot to hang out. Sadly we lost much of that this year; it was a kick to the community. But we will hang on. We need each other more than ever now."
Mathew Nuqingaq, a Nunavummiut artist who is a silversmith, metal artist, sculptor, drum dancer, photographer and educator based in Iqaluit.
"I didn’t know what to expect when visitors slowed down. I began showcasing my jewellery on social media and everything lit up! There was so much demand, I even presented my pieces at an online craft fair. These past two years, my work has reached so many more people from across Canada and around the world. It can be overwhelming as I take my time with each design. I love working with silver, each piece tells a story of our people, of our land, of our culture.
I also find inspiration in Inuit music and other Inuit artists. I share my jewellery with galleries across the country and I am very thankful for their support. It has been the best job I have ever had, and to see so many people responding to my work from around the world makes me so very happy."
Meet Elder Mary Lee
At 80 years of age, Mary Lee is a Cree Elder and retired teacher who has been guiding the development of Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, as an Indigenous cultural interpretive centre since its inception.
"Wanuskewin has been developing in front of my eyes and I am very proud of this heritage park which tells the stories of our people. This land is so beautiful and I have taken my students there for many years–we go for a walk and get to know the land. I tell them the same stories that were shared with me when I was younger. There is a lot of pride in who we are as Cree people and how we survived. At Wanuskewin, I was the first one to build a teepee and when the elders went to sweat, I prepared their feast of soup, bannock, berries and tea.
The old people told us that the bison would be back and some say they never left. The bison did come back and gave us a great gift, uncovering ancient rock art. These rocks have a big story to tell. I tell visitors to the park they should visit many times as there is so much to see and so many stories to learn from. The bison are uncovering new stories of the land."
Celeste Mah is the Co-Founding Chef of the soon-to-open Portage restaurant in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
"I moved from a coast where the growing season is much longer to a coast where distinct seasons means you need to work with nature for your local ingredients. Newfoundland and Labrador are definitely at the end of the line and, if you are creative and work with local flavours, our dining scene is hard to beat. Cod is king here, and we have so many other ingredients like arctic hare, capelin and bakeapples that speak to our region’s sense of history and place.
Both my husband and I are chefs and we are working to support a more sustainable food system, truly living off the island. I feel like we are really coming into our own in helping to create a culinary destination. Portage, our new restaurant, has been created for locals but we hope to draw in visitors as well. Fun, casual, welcoming, our goal is for guests to experience the true Newfoundland spirit through our dishes."
Sébastien Roy, Chief Executive Officer at Distillerie Fils du Roy in Petit-Paquetville, New Brunswick.
"I don’t believe in luck; I believe in hard work and success. What started as a family idea to build a first-class boutique distillery in 2011 has grown into a destination experience for New Brunswick in the magnificent Acadian peninsula. Even if you come from a small town, you can dream big. On a busy day, we will receive over 400 visitors. Through our spirits, liqueurs, beer, soaps, honey, malt and now coffee we celebrate Acadia, recognizing local families and history when we name our products.
During our complimentary tastings and visits, we share our stories. Ask us and we’ll happily give you a tour anytime. We also believe passionately in supporting our local producers and farmers who supply us with incredible ingredients. Together we will all thrive. This is our legacy as a family business."
Meet Shanta and John
Shanta Johnson and John Ferguson, founders and owners at Gather Café and Taphouse in Whitehorse, Yukon.
"Timing was everything. We opened in January 2021 during a time when Yukoners were ready to experience local restaurants like ours. We were amazed at the support we received and how fast word of mouth spread. It’s hard to keep up with demand and we are already dreaming of expansion. We are so lucky with the quality of available ingredients and our kitchen team; it is what brings people back. The biggest surprise for many of our diners is our local kombucha and the fact some of our ingredients are literally attached to our building (thanks to our garden wall co-created with Cold Acre Greens .
The term “gather” in Gather Café comes from a term used in glass blowing. Being co-located with glass-blowing Lumel Studios created this larger community among artists, foodies, farmers and local makers. For us, living in the Yukon is all about supporting each other, we are a tight knit community. You can’t help but feel welcome when you walk through our doors."
Tanya Bouchard is the Cultural Director at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"When I began my work here over 10 years ago, the museum was a small non-profit. I am so proud that the historic Pier 21 site has since become home to the Canadian Museum of Immigration, the only national museum in Atlantic Canada. Offering a diversity of perspectives, exhibits explore the history and personal experiences of immigrants and refugees to Canada. Through the powerful stories visitors share upon experiencing the museum, we know that it has a lasting impact on them.
As a result of their visit, they often say they feel a sense of pride in Canada while also becoming aware that our country could be even more accessible and accepting. I am a museum lover, the type of person who wants to read and experience everything. I hope that what we have created inspires visitors to consume everything we have to offer and leave wanting to learn more."
Tarra Wright is the founder and owner at Many Chief Tours and a member of the Blood Tribe and the Blackfoot Confederacy in Calgary, Alberta.
"I discovered St. Patrick’s Island in Calgary’s East Village with my children, and I discovered an important Blackfoot connection to this area. For a long time I have wanted to find ways to share my Blackfoot knowledge. I launched Many Chief Tours with a goal to offer tours that are both sustainable and intimate as it is important to me that people have time to reflect, ask questions and learn. Our small groups and outdoor setting allowed us to keep operating through the pandemic. Aitsiniki is a Blackfoot word to describe our storytelling; sharing our culture and our stories gives these stories new life.
Sharing our history, our ways of life, and our progress towards an independent future shows our resilience, our connection to the land and our ways of being today. I am proud that my business is 100% Indigenous-owned and that all our guides are Indigenous; guests hear the stories of our people from our people and our lived Blackfoot experiences. It is very important to me to help build Blackfoot cultural awareness, understanding and appreciation; through this we can create stronger relationships and respect for the culture that has existed and thrived here since time immemorial."
Jamie Thomas is the Cultural Director at Experience Lennox Island and a band member of the Lennox Island Mi’kmaq First Nation in Prince Edward Island.
"Lennox Island experiences connect people to Mi'kmaq culture in meaningful ways. Together, we strike a balance of education about our traditions and ceremonies while celebrating our future. Many of our experiences are recreated from our memories and those of our elders. Food is something that also brings us all together. I remembered talking about bannock being cooked in the sand, but had no idea how to do it. I had to rely on our elders to teach us.
Today, our bannock and clam feasts are our most popular experience. It makes our community so proud as we are traditionally sharing people. As tourism opens back up, we have even more to share. My advice to those who visit – don’t be shy. Ask your questions and learn about us. We are proud of our past and how we are now growing as a destination for visitors from around the world."
Ted Grant is a Pilot and Founder at Simpson Air in Fort Simpson, in the Northwest Territories.
"The biggest gift the tourism industry has given me is friends from all over the world. And when I tell people about the Nahanni National Park Reserve, they don’t believe me. It’s like visiting six parks in one. Virginia Falls are twice as high as Niagara Falls and the Cirque of the Unclimbables have 13 faces. What we have in the north rivals anywhere in the world. Growing up in the Prairies I always knew I needed a plane of my own. I am proud to be called a bush pilot.
Once I saw the Nahanni, my fate was sealed. I knew where I wanted to fly and where to bring my guests. I have worked hard to build the tourism industry for the Nahanni and now have guests who return year over year. I may end up being the oldest bush pilot this land has seen but I am living my dream of flying in the north."
Though now might not be the right time to travel, there are many meaningful ways to support businesses in your community. Share these stories to spread the love, visit local businesses near you and start travelling further afield when it’s safe to do so. We’re confident you’ll be welcomed back with open arms and glowing hearts.