Indigenous-led tourism operation is looking to grow consulting side of business
An Indigenous-led tourism business based out of Kamloops is expanding into the arena of consulting.
Moccasin Trails launched in 2018, offering interpretive canoe and walking tours. Its owners have used the downtime created by the pandemic to focus on their next venture.
“Instead of just sharing authentic experiences, we also want to help communities and individuals who want to be a part of Indigenous Tourism,” said Frank Antoine, who owns and operates the business alongside his partner Greg Hopf.
Antoine said that he and Hopf can draw on the challenges they faced early on in launching their businesses, as well as their long respective histories working in the tourism sector.
Like so many tourism businesses, the team’s plans for last summer were derailed by COVID-19, as the business was effectively unable to operate under COVID-19 restrictions.
Antoine said that he hopes to be able to operate in a reduced capacity this summer.
While still a young business, Moccasin Trails has built a number of key relationships, including with tour providers, local schools and post-secondary institutions.
“The relationships that we built in those two years [since starting out], haven’t gone away,” said Antoine. “We’re all waiting for those borders to be open and COVID [restrictions] to be lifted.”
Antoine said that the business was successful in attaining a number of grants that they have helped keep things operational. He added that the business will also be applying for a government-backed loan.
Since opening for business, Moccasin Trails has worked closely with youth, including those enrolled at Four Directions Secondary School in Kamloops. The school is designed to serve students of Indigenous ancestry and has a heavy focus on Indigenous culture.
“We did a lot of different work with them from a cultural standpoint,” said Antoine, adding this involved a canoeing trip.
Antoine added that Moccasin Trails is keen to work with youth of all backgrounds going forward. He said that the business is seeking to develop similar relationships with other schools.
“Youth are youth in my eyes,” he said. “The youth and children want to learn, and if you can expose them to different cultures, they’ll have more of an appreciation of what and how we live in society today.”
COVID of course has been a difficult experience for almost all tourism businesses, including Moccasin Trails.
But in Antoine’s view, challenges are part and parcel to the entrepreneurial life
“I think that like any entrepreneur, you have your feast and famine and highs and lows,” he said
“Being an entrepreneur, regardless of what you’re getting into, involves hours of work and a lot of commitment. But in the end, it’s about having a passion for what you do, not so much the dollar signs in the end.’