The week of May 23rd to May 30th was National Tourism Week and, even though as of March 2020 we can’t actually travel, tourism is still a regular part of our lives. Without tourism, we wouldn’t have restaurants, museums, or any promotion of history and heritage. You don’t really need to travel far, far away to (re)discover and explore the world around you from a new perspective.
The Tourism Industry Association of Canada will celebrate their 100th year anniversary in 2030. They have set multiple goals including the intention to reflect the interests of the tourism industry at a national level. They support local, provincial, and territorial initiatives in order to include the whole country and, ideally, make Canada the most competitive tourism industry in the world.
So, why does tourism count? Before the pandemic hit, tourism in Canada:
From this moment on, if Canadians were dedicated to putting just two thirds of their international travel budget into exploring Canada, the country would be able to regain the 19 billion dollar decline of the pandemic; this would create 150,000 jobs and allow the industry to recover even faster.
These numbers are fairly impressive. At a provincial level, Manitoba had 3.5 million people visiting Winnipeg each year before 2020, which provided 2.3 billion dollars for the province’s gross domestic product. Tourism in Saint-Boniface alone makes 1.2 million dollars a year for the city of Winnipeg.
You can be a tourist in Saint-Boniface even if you’ve lived there your entire life! With a camera around your neck or not, I’m sure there are things you’ve yet to discover.
I went on my first Tourisme Riel guided walking tour in 2017 when I was hosting a visitor who was crossing the country from East to West and they wanted to understand why we speak French in Winnipeg. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours exploring Saint-Boniface, taking thousands of pictures, finding every little nook and cranny, and I still manage to learn something new in every visit and every conversation with residents, business owners, and employees in the neighbourhood.
Playing tourist in your own city is fun and, in a way, refreshing. There are so many resources out there to help you enrich your understanding and expand your knowledge of your neighbourhood, city, and history… and Tourisme Riel really has it all.
In April 2018, a new brand was launched to help promote tourism in Saint-Boniface. Travel Manitoba, along with a communications business, consulted a committee that had been given the immense responsibility of finding a name. Passion was chosen because of the community’s liveliness, and histoire for its rich history and all of the tales yet to be told. The words were chosen in French to honour the initiative.
The brand is an important element of the growing tourism industry in Saint-Boniface and the Riel region, which also includes Saint-Vital and Saint-Norbert. Its launch was followed closely by the release of the documentary, At the Heart of Manitoba’s Francophone Community; a real must-see for those interested in the history of Franco-Manitobans, their battles, defeats, and origins. When public health orders allow it, there will be free viewings of the documentary everyday this summer at 219 Provencher Boulevard, (contact Tourisme Riel to check availability).
The next step will be the reveal of the Francophone and Métis Tourism Strategy, in collaboration with Travel Manitoba and a handful of local organizations. The foundation of this strategy was inspired by a visit to Louisiana a few years ago, and I have to admit that I can’t wait to read it, then be able to help welcome visitors to Saint-Boniface.
Your favourite restaurants are still open: order take-out! Most restaurants have come out with online ordering systems, either on their own website or through a delivery service. You can also buy gift cards to use now, or later, as a way of supporting them.
You could even grab a coffee from Café Postal and explore Saint-Boniface for historical buildings or geocaches.
Lots of cultural institutions, Saint-Boniface Museum for example, are happy to accept donations and many also encourage buying annual memberships.
And to let your friends and family across the country know you’re thinking of them and that you can’t wait to see them once it’s safe to travel! Destination Canada has recently announced a free postcard initiative: to send yours now, click here!