What better way to learn about history than to experience it firsthand? That’s what Frank Antoine and Greg Hopf thought when they first talked about ways to share their Indigenous culture with the world. When they launched Moccasin Trails, in Kamloops, B.C. they wanted to give people an authentic experience of their culture.
In 2018, Frank and Greg started offering tours in the Thompson-Okanagan to help people from all over the world learn about the triumphs and struggles of Indigenous people, all while experiencing their language, food, ceremonies and storytelling.
“We wanted to bring people from around the world on the ancestral paths our people walked, have them taste the food we ate, sing the songs we sang, hear the stories that were passed down orally from generations ago, and travel down the rivers we canoed,” says Greg.
Offering a fully immersive experience proved successful, attracting a lot of interest in the Okanagan. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and their tourism-based business struggled.
“Prior to COVID-19, we were on the path to success with many booked tours, and partnerships with a number of Indigenous tourism providers to create experiential packages,” explains Greg. “In March 2020 it became apparent that people were not travelling, most of our tours were cancelled and we had no way of bringing in revenue to put food on our families’ tables.”
In order to survive, Moccasin Trails had to pivot, quickly becoming a consulting company to help other communities develop their own strategic tourism plans. Export Navigator was there to help Frank and Greg make this change.
“During the downturn in tourism, we had to look at earning income differently, just so we could keep the doors open to Moccasin Trails. Export Navigator provided us with training opportunities and made information available about COVID-19 relief grants and loans,” acknowledges Greg.
Expanding on New Opportunities
Moccasin Trails is now able to operate, as long as they adhere to strict COVID-19 health protocols. Back in business, they’re working hard to make connections with tourism operators across Canada and the US, having already signed contracts in North Carolina and San Diego.
“When we heard about Export Navigator, we didn’t realize that it was about making and leveraging partnerships. Business owners need to be prepared to do the work necessary to take their business to the next level. We would recommend Export Navigator to other businesses, based on this understanding,” says Greg.
Greg and Frank plan to continue working with Export Navigator to create new connections so they can showcase Moccasin Trails to the world.