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Aboriginal Ecotourism Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

a workshop presented at the North American Ecotourism Conference Madison, Wisconsin September 26 to 28, 2007

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

September 2007

contents Presenter Background ............................................................................................1 Aboriginal Ecotoursim ...........................................................................................2 Ecotourism .............................................................................................................4 Introducing Operational Success Factors .............................................................5 Key Steps for Developing Your Aboriginal Ecotourism Project ............................6 Vision ......................................................................................................................7 Plans .......................................................................................................................8 Reality ...................................................................................................................13 Project Planning Model ........................................................................................15 Operational Success Factors ...............................................................................19 Build Your Project Team .......................................................................................20

© copyright 2007 MacLeod Farley & Associates. All Rights Reserved.

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

September 2007

presenter background Rick MacLeod Farley is a development economist with more than 17 years experience in ecotourism, heritage tourism and community economic development. From 1990 through 1994 he worked as a regional economic coordinator for a Cree tribal council called Mushkegowuk Council. Since then, he has operated his consulting firm, MacLeod Farley & Associates, which specializes in Aboriginal ecotourism. Rick is a Canadian with Irish and French ancestry. Rick has a solid project development track record - having helped his clients access over $30 million in funding in the last ten years, with a 95% plus funding application approval rate. Rick had an extensive role with MoCreebec Council of the Cree Nation on their award winning $6 million Cree Village Ecolodge (www.creevillage.com). Other major assignments have included the Washow James Bay Wilderness Centre (opening 2008), Kamestastin Lodge (proposed) in Labrador, and Timiskaming Cultural Lodge (planning stages) in Quebec. In addition to his work in Canada, Rick has a long-standing interest in Indigenous communities in South and Central America.

The information in this presentation reflects many years of ecotourism and heritage project development work by Rick, members of his consulting teams, and most importantly his client communities. Rick would like to particularly acknowledge MoCreebec Council of the Cree Nation, Moose Cree First Nation, the Innu communities of Labrador, and Sandra White of the Aboriginal FirstHost training program.

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

September 2007

aboriginal ecotourism • An industry where both women and men can be successful owners and operators. • Employment opportunities exist for all age groups. • Employment opportunities exist for both the low-skilled and high-skilled Aboriginal workforce. • Provides a positive working environment and lifestyle. • Provides an opportunity to reflect our pride in our cultures. • Can be developed on a small or large scale. • Can be a strong component of the Aboriginal economy. • An industry which respects our environment. • Can work with cultural education. Barry Parker, Okanagan

“Ecotourism operators have the potential to play a leadership role in sustaining and enhancing cultural and ecological values....We see ourselves as being in “the experience business” – rather than just the tourism industry. Our mission is to create memorable experiences, and to increase cultural and ecological awareness.... Part of being in the experience business is the connection between the traveler and the host and the traveler and the land. Traditionally – for many thousands of years – this relationship has been a valued one. We are working to restore this important connection.” Lynn Phelan, Okanagan

“It was my feeling that the Sahtu region of the Western Arctic had much to offer and we as Dene people should invite visitors in to our land to observe how we live, how we are close to the land and why, and how we respect the animals and resources of the land. This was especially important to me as I watched the efforts of European and other animal rights activists try to decimate our Aboriginal way of life, in particular, the trapping industry. I felt that it was up to us as native people to educate southern Canadians and Europeans in our way of life. To show them our love of the land, and to have our elders meet with them and tell stories of life as it was.” Cathy Pope, North Slavey Dene

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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Aboriginal ecotourism is a form of tourism hosted by First Nation’s communities and inspired primarily by the authentic history and culture of the First Nation’s in the area. Aboriginal ecotourism is intricately linked to the traditional territory of the host nation. The host nation shares with their guests the history of their relationship with the land, and their wisdom and knowledge about co-existing with that environment in the past, present and future. Aboriginal ecotourism uses local materials and is careful not to over-consume resources. There is a focus on sustainability, on “taking care of Mother Earth”, and on protecting the culture of First Nations. Aboriginal ecotourism supports and benefits local community members economically and improves relations between First Nations and non-natives through education and shared experiences. this definition of Aboriginal Tourism was drawn from workshop participants at the 2006 Aboriginal Tourism in Canada Conference

Chief Noel Augustine and his council members at the Achieving Excellence in Aboriginal Ecotourism Workshop, Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq First Nation, March 2005

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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ecotourism

“Environmentally responsible travel and initiation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features – both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local problems.” IUCN’s Ecotourism Program – Hector Ceballos Lascurain, 1993

“Nature – based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the natural environment and is managed to be ecologically sustainable.” Australian Department of Tourism 1994

“Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” The International Ecotourism Society – 2004

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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introducing operational success factors

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

September 2007

key steps for developing your aboriginal ecotourism project

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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vision community resources, values and guidelines Unique Aspects of your Community 1. What is the geographic location of your community? Are there specific places which are important? If so, what are they and why are they important? 2. What is the geographic context (how did the geography affect the history of the community)? What geographic features make your community unique? 3. What is the historic and present day significance of your location to your community? 4. Where does your modern day community fit into the larger context? 5. What are the symbols of your community (music, language, foods, ...) and how exactly are they significant? 6. What material objects (things) are significant in your community? How are they significant? 7. What are the elements of your territory/culture which you want to protect and may choose not to share with tourists? 8. If your community could do anything with ecotourism, what would be your main attraction or big experience? 9. What standards do you want to set? If you want an elaborate, world-class project then you will need a professional development and operations team which may initially mean hiring people from outside of your community. If you choose a simpler, smaller project it will cost less, and you may be able to develop it with your own people. 10. What are your community ‘values’? What guidelines would you set to ensure that your Aboriginal Ecotourism project is developed in a manner that respects your community values?

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

September 2007

plans concept development To further develop your concept, you can look at three related factors:

people

place

market

We learned this powerful model from Sandra White when she led Aboriginal FirstHost. Sandra stressed the need for those working in Aboriginal Tourism to understand their ‘people’, ‘place’ and ‘market’. Focusing in these same three areas for your project, you can move from your broad vision to a more detailed concept of what your project may become. This is where you can be clear on your concept in terms of community aspirations, environmental aspects and broad market targets. It can be very effective to present it as a brief ‘Concept Paper’, perhaps 8-10 pages in length, which can be circulated in the community to assist further dialogue and used as a support document to secure planning funding support.

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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strategic planning Strategic planning is often used by groups (activists, developers, business, government) as an organizing tool and as a way of generating consensus on the overall project direction through to detailed action plans. Strategic planning can be carried out at various times in the process of developing your project. Strategic planning often leads to the development of the following: • overall vision for the community (the dream to strive towards) • project or business venture mission (the scheme or focus) • identification of critical issues (the big questions affecting your project) • key objectives or goals (what you must do) • key strategies (how you will do it) • action plans (steps to take – who, what, when – to implement each key strategy)

Strategic planning processes often include a situation analysis (history, strengths/ weaknesses/threats/opportunities). For ecotourism projects, for example, the opportunities may include two key areas: client markets and project funding sources.

Strategic planning processes should be customized to meet the needs of your community or group. In our past work with MoCreebec Council of the Cree Nation, they modified the strategic planning process to include a focus on clarifying the Community Values, and establishing Community Guidelines as a starting point in developing their Cree Village Ecolodge project. A similar approach is sometimes used by other Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal groups.

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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feasibility study A feasibility study is often undertaken as a logical next step. A feasibility study considers whether or not the project concept is financially viable, and worthy of further detailed business planning. Identification of targets markets is key to the feasibility study, as markets are central to the preliminary revenue projections. The scope of the feasibility study can also be expanded to include an assessment of community capacity for the proposed project in terms of human resources and the environment. If the feasibility study demonstrates that the project is feasible, it is then worthwhile to proceed to the creation of a business plan. Financial viability will need to be further demonstrated within your business plan.

Financial viability depends on three inter-related factors: • Total Capital Costs • Composition And Nature Of The Ecotourism Project Financing • Projected Net Income

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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business plan A business plan should be written with two key audiences in mind: 1. target project funders (assuming some outside funding is required) 2. the ecotourism business operator(s) The inclusion of key results from project strategic planning within the business plan will greatly improve the quality and value, and thus the impact, of the business plan document. To enhance the success of project development, the business plan should provide all key information to successfully attract funding. To benefit the operations, the business plan should guide the construction and operations and be updated on a regular basis. Your business plan should include at least basic drawings of planned facilities (ie. Ecolodge, camps, etc.). Detailed construction drawings can be pursued later once the capital funding is in place.

Environmental aspects (‘green’ products and energy efficiency) will be of great interest to your target ecotourism markets.

To successfully attract your target project funders, your business plan should: • tell your ‘project story’ effectively and powerfully; • convey your ecotourism project’s excitement and importance; • be clear, concise, complete and achievable; • demonstrate financial viability; • address the funder’s needs; • motivate the target funder to take action and say “yes!”

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

September 2007

The following is a list of key sections of a sample ecotourism business plan. Overview Community Market Research Site & Services Management Plan Marketing Plan Costs & Financial Projections The business plan should lay out a detailed financing strategy. There are typically three types of project financing available to ecotourism projects: i. Equity – ownership stake ii. Grants – non-repayable investments iii. Loans – repayable over time

In general, projects should endeavor to maximize non-repayable investments (grants), and minimize loans.

On-going financial impacts of loans can be minimized by striving for zero or low interest rates, grace periods, and lengthy terms. Equity funding is usually required by project funding agencies. It is often advantageous to minimize equity as well. Owner’s may be grateful for an ‘equity reserve’ during the early operational years as income projections may be difficult to attain.

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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reality securing project financing With your plans in place, you now face the daunting challenge of securing your project financing. Pursuing funding from federal and provincial sources is often a very time consuming and challenging process. Often it is advantageous to organize and undertake a ‘Developmental Project’ which provides the opportunity for further research and planning as well as assistance to secure financing for your project. The owners’ objectives in terms of financing (i.e. minimizing equity and loans) is often in conflict with funding agencies project financing objectives (i.e. to maximize equity). In developing your project financing, you need to strive for the optimal balance of your needs and wants and the funding agencies’ needs and wants. At times, this balance is not achievable, and a decision may be made to look for a different target funder. Project funding can take the form of Cash or In-kind contributions. Most project funding is in terms of ‘cash’ however ‘In-kind’ (non-cash) contributions usually play a key role in developing Aboriginal ecotourism projects. Explicit recognition of In-kind contributions can be used strategically to make your project financing look more attractive for the funding partners.

In developing your project financing, you need to strive for the optimal balance of your needs and wants and the funding agencies’ needs and wants.

In-kind contributions to the project, such as land and property, can be used very effectively to reduce the amount of cash equity that the project owners will have to invest. Not all funding sources will recognize in-kind contributions as part of their financing analysis.

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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construction, launch and operations Once your funding is secured, you will then be able to proceed with the construction and launch of your Aboriginal Ecotourism venture. Many factors should be addressed at this time, including pre-launch marketing, program development, staffing, training and board development.

Once the operation is up and running, performance monitoring in all regards is of great importance.

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establish planning group

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and guidelines

community values

initial concept

ma k i n g c h a n g e h a p p e n . . . t o g e t h e r

vision mission key objectives

community strategic plan:

Vision: develop the initial concept

project planning model

Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

September 2007


people

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detailed concept

market

place

and guidelines

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September 2007

check against values

m a ki n g c h a n g e h a p p e n . . . t o g e t h e r

plans: concept development

Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project


initial financial plan

assessment

community

plans: business plan

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business plan

initial site & facility design

feasibility study

market assessment

and guidelines

September 2007

initial program design

site assessment

check against values

initial marketing plan

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initial operating plan

Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project


final financial plan

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project implementation

final site & facility design

and guidelines

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final program design

check against values

final marketing plan

m ak in g c h a n g e h a p p e n . . . t o g e t h e r

final operating plan

secure capital funding

reality: secure financing, finalize plans, implement

Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project


Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

September 2007

operational success factors Capable leadership, highly experienced Meet or exceed market expectations, while

and skilled management, ongoing

providing unforgettable and meaningful

planning, motivated and well trained staff, careful cost targeting and cost

experiences that reflect your unique

controls.

environment, culture and values. Governance/management •

• Site

Planning •

• Products

Staffing •

• Facility

Financial controls •

• Programs

Traditional territory • • Professional

Community

research & analysis

support • Culture &

• Professional

environment •

marketing plan • Professional support

Initiative reflects and supports your local community

Targeted, cost-effective

culture and environment, connects with

and monitored marketing with

your community, and supports your

measurable results.

traditional territory and broader environment through planning and stewardship.

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Vision to Reality: Developing Your Project

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build your project team To develop a successful ecotourism business requires a strong team approach. Decide what kind of project you want. To achieve a world class project requires hiring professionals, often from outside of your community. A smaller operation may be achieved using the existing skills of community members.

Owners Who are the best people to “own” this project? Will it be the band? A nonprofit organization? A private business person? Who is, or who are, the leaders? You need at least one individual with the vision, leadership skills and determination to see the project through 5 – 10 years of development.

Project Mangers Who is going to manage this project? You need people who have; • the time to focus almost exclusively on this project • the ability to see the bigger picture and keep the project on track while at the same time sweating the details • excellent financial management skills • excellent communications skills (both verbal and written) • excellent interpersonal skills (the Project Manager must have the ability to maintain harmonious relationships with everyone involved)

Technicians Who is going to do the technical work involved in developing and running this project? Your project development team should include people with the following abilities; • experience in writing concept papers, feasibility studies, strategic business plans, funding proposals and in doing presentations • excellent financial skills to generate financial plans and forecasts for the business • negotiating skills to help to facilitate change with the community stakeholders and to negotiate with funding agencies and suppliers • administrative skills to administer the project, keep records and to handle government claims and reports • expertise in tourism markets and in tourism product development

When hiring a consultant for your project, look for those with a demonstrated track record of successful work on Aboriginal ecotourism projects.

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R.R. #7, 223177 Grey Road 17B Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada N4K 6V5 phone: 519-370-2332 fax: 1-866-409-8633 (toll free) e-mail: info@macfar.ca web: www.macfar.ca

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