On June 16, the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) and the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) praised the Senate leadership for the introduction of the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act of 2015.
The bipartisan legislation was introduced Tuesday by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), co-chair of the Senate Tourism Caucus, and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) are original cosponsors of the NATIVE Act.
“AIANTA strongly supports the goals of the NATIVE Act and we look forward to Congressional hearings and working with members of the House of Representatives to advance this important policy initiative,” AIANTA board President Sherry L. Rupert said in a statement. “Tourism can help many tribes and Native communities become more self-sufficient, create jobs and businesses, and protect tribal heritage assets while sharing tribal culture with domestic and global audiences. The potential of Native tourism remains a largely untapped national tourism resource and holds great potential for increasing domestic travelers as well as international visitors.”
Rupert also serves as the executive director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission, and sits on the prestigious U.S. Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (US TTAB).
“The NATIVE Act will help highlight the diverse options that are available to travelers to and within the U.S., which can only help spur travel activity and the powerful economic benefits that come with it,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “People already think of traveling the U.S. for shopping, theme parks and natural wonders like our coastlines and mountain ranges, but this will boost understanding of our incredibly rich native history as well. This will be of particular benefit to international travelers, who spend $4,300 per trip to the U.S. on average, and are a big part of why travel is one of the most effective job creators of any sector of the economy.”
The NATIVE Act received a unanimous endorsement from AIANTA’s entire board of directors, representing six regions across the U.S.
“The NATIVE Act will help to advance tourism’s potential to improve the lives of remote and well-known tribes in Alaska, while also supporting all of the work that AIANTA does to expand Indian Country tourism,” said Rachel Moreno, AIANTA Board of Directors Vice President and Alaska Regional Representative, Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
“We are thrilled with Senator Schatz’ introduction of this bill,” said Rowena Akana, AIANTA board of directors Pacific Regional Representative, Native Hawaiian. “The NATIVE Act will offer new tourism opportunities for Native Hawaiians, previously unavailable.”
Other AIANTA board members in support of the NATIVE Act include, Mario Fulmer, Alaska Regional Representative, Huna Totem Corporation; Rowena Yeahquo, Pacific Regional Representative, Kiowa/Comanche; Jackie Yellowtail, Plains Regional Representative, Crow Tribal member; William D. Lowe, Plains Regional Representative, Muscogee Creek Nation; Ernie Stevens III, Midwest Regional Representative, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin; Aimee Awonohopay, Midwest Regional Representative, St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin and Lora Ann Chaisson, Eastern Regional Representative, United Houma Nation.