“The entire world is competing for these European travelers’ attention. It’s a massive show,” said Rachel Howard, American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association's media specialist, of ITB Berlin.
AIANTA and tribal organizations will represent Indian country at ITB Berlin, March 8-12, 2017. The world's largest tourism trade fair, ITB Berlin showcases more than 10,000 exhibitors and organizations from more than 180 countries. It attracts tourist boards, tour operators, system providers, airlines, hotel and car rental companies from across the globe.
AIANTA encourages tribes to participate in ITB Berlin to enhance tribal knowledge of the international tourism market. Increased travel to Native America has been an added bonus. “It just so happens that by default we are promoting Indian Country, and teaching tribes how to work within the industry,” said Camille Ferguson, AIANTA executive director.
The growth of international visitors to Native American communities has grown 181 percent since AIANTA started working with the international market. A record 1,958,000 international visitors traveled to Indian country in 2015. “In one year, 2014-15, we grew at 17 percent, which is a huge growth,” Ferguson said.
AIANTA will highlight NativeAmerica.Travel, AIANTA’s destination website showcasing Indian country tourism across the country, with particular emphasis on its “American Indians & Route 66,” 65-page, magazine-style guidebook and complementary website. It adds the indigenous narrative to the story of America’s most famous highway running from Chicago to California. The guidebook aims to replace the stereotypical images with the truth, spotlighting authentic indigenous experiences that are available today. “We had 5,000 copies printed, and we’re down to the last few hundred. You can also download the brochure right off the website,” Ferguson said.
AIANTA will additionally promote its Grand Canyon Desert View, where a Watchtower, perched on the edge of the Canyon, offers majestic views. “By bringing in the people who lived in that area, the Grand Canyon Desert View Interpretive Center vastly enhanced the experience and educates visitors on indigenous history. You see artists demonstrating, you see Native dancers, you learn about the structure that is there and the artwork that is inside,” Ferguson said.
The event is also a platform for correct cultural perpetuation. AIANTA and tribes will teach international visitors and domestic travelers alike about the unique cultures and traditions of Native America. “We take advantage of the opportunity to share Native culture at the schools. They’ve been jaded a bit by the teaching of Karl May’s books, because that’s their only real understanding of the cowboys and Indians,” Ferguson said.
Presenting tribes wear regalia and share their history and modern day lives, “so students get a better idea of the diversity of American Indians within the United States,” Ferguson said.
AIANTA offers a host of opportunities for tribes and Native businesses to become involved in this growing industry – furthering the shared goals of Indian Country to bring awareness and knowledge of America’s first nations to the world. AIANTA first attended ITB Berlin in 2007 with a grassroots group of tribes and organizations who wanted to learn more about the international tourism industry. Attending ITB Berlin this year are: Chickasaw Country, Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, Monument Valley Simpson’s Trailhandler Tours, Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers (Minnesota), and the Suquamish Tribal Museum and Cultural Center.
ITB Berlin is a global marketplace, networking and meeting place, trend barometer, knowledge platform, think tank, and career springboard. While tribes could attend with their respective states or other organizations, it’s beneficial to attend with AIANTA, the only national organization representing tribes in the international tourism marketplace. “We represent all of Indian country as a whole. That way they don’t get lost in the sea of the U.S., the sea of the world’s indigenous peoples, and then the sea of the whole world” represented at ITB Berlin, Howard said.
AIANTA additionally helps tribes market their tourism products on an international scale through its summit Go International, as well as weekly training calls to prepare tribes for ITB. AIANTA will provide further tourism training workshops at its 19th Annual American Indian Tourism Conference (AITC), September 10-14, 2017, at the Radisson Green Bay in Wisconsin.
This year and going forward, AIANTA will additionally participate in some of the world’s largest travel tradeshows including Showcase-USA Italy, ITB-Berlin and the World Travel Market, which focuses primarily on the UK market.