How a remote, community-led business became a global model for ecotourism
Spirit Bear Lodge, owned and operated by Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation, has become a successful model for conservation-based ecotourism. The Lodge has helped strengthen economic, conservation, and cultural well-being in the community of Klemtu.
In their Land Use Plan produced in 1999/2000, the Nation identified ecotourism (non-extractive tourism) as a new economic opportunity developing from the new protection of areas in their territory.
Chief Councillor Douglas Neasloss of Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation suggests that the ecotourism activities at Spirit Bear Lodge are aligned with Kitasoo/Xai’xais cultural values. “The elders always say what we have is not ours, we’re just holding it for the next generation. That’s really important in whatever we do that we look at the model and say we’re going to take care of it and make sure the next generation has something.”
Spirit Bear Lodge is a substantial contributor to both cultural and economic development within Klemtu. Employing nearly 10 per cent of the local population, the Lodge has diversified opportunities for employment in the community, particularly for youth. The Lodge provides a new and diverse source of employment in Klemtu, separate from the traditional industries of logging and fishing.
One of the most important impacts that the Lodge has had in Klemtu is to help revitalize the Kitasoo/Xai’xais culture. Together with the Kitasoo Resource Stewardship Department, Spirit Bear Lodge began sponsoring Súa–a youth cultural program that connects youth with their culture and history.
To further benefit the community, much of the Lodge’s profits are reinvested in language revitalization, youth development, stewardship, and further business expansions.