As a Black woman living in Nova Scotia, René Boudreau knew firsthand how underrepresented her community was. She set out to change that. Her immense pride in her home and her culture, and her belief in the power and impact of fair representation led her to launching her own tourism business, Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia.
Her mission was clear: improve representation, so more people will feel welcomed. By shining a spotlight on the Black community exploring and enjoying all the wonders of Nova Scotia, René knew she could compel more Black travellers to visit—and keep coming back.
Throughout René’s advocacy, for her community and her home province, she has experienced profound personal growth, gaining the confidence to use her voice as a force for positive change. Her career in tourism became so much more than a job—it’s a way of honouring her home and her people—and she’s proud of it.
René Boudreau was raised in an entirely Black community in Truro, Nova Scotia—a predominately white town. Growing up deeply rooted in this community has shaped her connection to her heritage, the person she is today, and the tourism work that she does. Today, she spends her time celebrating African Nova Scotians through her business, Elevate & Explore Black Nova Scotia, bridging knowledge gaps, facilitating joy, and bringing people together.
“But where are you really from?”
While travelling, René noticed two things: the distinct lack of diverse representation in Nova Scotia’s tourism industry, and how few people knew about the history of Nova Scotia— especially its African history. “I’d say I’m from Nova Scotia, and people would ask ‘but where are you really from?’ I realized there are knowledge gaps, and people aren’t learning about African Nova Scotian history.” She also notes that representation has a massive impact on drawing visitors, “If I don’t see myself reflected in certain experiences, I won’t be inclined to go.”
With two entrepreneurs as parents, René knew that she wanted to run her own company as well, and having always been passionate about tourism and travel, she found her niche by starting Elevate & Explore Black Nova Scotia.
Creating Spaces for People to Feel Seen
The original concept for Elevate & Explore was to encourage more Black travellers from outside of the province to visit Nova Scotia, but when the COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a halt, her perspective changed. “It led me to encourage people to see what’s in their own backyard.”
African Nova Scotians have been around for over 400 years. The community includes descendants of the Black loyalist refugees, Jamaican Maroons, and Caribbean immigrants. René hopes that by providing resources and tours for people, she can help to fill in the knowledge gap surrounding Black history in Nova Scotia.
Rene’s business is both experiential and informational. On the Elevate & Explore website, you will find a Black-owned business directory, a sites and attractions page, and information on past and upcoming tours and events offered by Elevate & Explore. René works with local tour operators to curate these experiences, with themes that celebrate Black joy and Black excellence. “I’ve had events sell out before I could even post about them, which was really cool. I’m just creating spaces for people to feel seen.”
Where the Past and Present Meet
René is also committed to improving the lives of those living in Nova Scotia’s Black community today. “Oftentimes Black people are in spaces where we’re talking about racism and things that aren’t uplifting. Part of what I want to do is create spaces where people can just rest and have fun and celebrate themselves.” Through her business, she has been able to do just that. One of the recent events put on by Elevate & Explore was a wine tour in partnership with a local wine house. René fondly recalls just how rewarding this experience was, seeing people dancing and singing, enjoying wine, and connecting with each other.
Elevate & Explore has been incredibly well received both at home and abroad. It was recently featured in the New York Times, and René has been nominated for multiple awards, such as the Developing Young Leader award and most recently the Innovative Business of the Year award at the 2023 Halifax Chamber of Commerce Awards.
René hopes to grow Elevate & Explore to brand new heights in the coming year, tapping into new potential and providing even more for her community, while circling back to her original goal of attracting more Black travellers from around the world to visit the province.
Tourism hasn’t just helped René grow her company, it’s also helped her grow as a person. “It really takes you places, and not physical places, but places within yourself that you might have never tapped into before. It takes you out of your comfort zone and takes you to different opportunities.” René has said that tourism has also helped her gain confidence and realize her power. “If you want to discover more of yourself, tourism can take you there.”