AIANTA, with Southeast Tourism Society Brings Tribal Tourism to Congress

Sherry Rupert

AIANTA board president, Sherry Rupert at Congressional Summit.

Published June 20, 2016

2016 Congressional Summit on Travel & Tourism brings Indian Country tourism into national discussion

WASHINGTON – Tourism leaders from across the country met in Washington last week to reinforce to Congress the strength and importance of the travel and tourism industry, including tribal tourism and initiatives to support National Parks and other public lands.

The Southeast Tourism Society’s Congressional Summit, staged in partnership with the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA), happened June 13 and 14, 2016, and served as a platform to educate members of Congress on the broad diversity of the travel and tourism sector.

The summit brought to light the significant contribution the travel and tourism industry makes to national and local communities through discussions about the National Park Service and its 2016 centennial, the Explore America Act, and reauthorization of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.

One of the most critical discussions to Indian Country during the summit was the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitors Experience (NATIVE) Act, which passed the Senate unanimously in April this year. The NATIVE Act is potential legislation to improve tribal tourism capacity by requiring federal agencies with tourism authorities to work with a national tribal tourism nonprofit to create cooperative agreements like the one AIANTA has with BIA.

AIANTA sponsored and attended two congressional receptions and the Travel and Tourism Policy Briefing during the annual summit, where AIANTA Executive Director Camille Ferguson, AIANTA Board President Sherry L. Rupert and the Transportation Specialist and Tourism Coordinator Ed Hall addressed the summit attendees.

Discussions centered on the National Park Service centennial, which communities, parks, tribes and other destinations in or near National Parks can all take part in through the “Find Your Park” campaign. AIANTA’s representatives showcased the importance of tribal partnerships with public lands agencies, through the unprecedented project at the Grand Canyon National Park, Transforming Desert View; and the recent release of the guidebook, “American Indians and Route 66.”

“Many of these places were culturally significant to our people long before they were designated as protected lands,” said Ferguson. “Successes like transforming the Grand Canyon Desert View area and the Route 66 project, are examples of what can be done across the country to ensure and encourage cultural inclusion in this country’s public lands.”

Also giving Indian Country a seat at the national level of the tourism industry, AIANTA President Sherry L. Rupert has recently been reappointed to the national Travel and Tourism Advisory Board for the third consecutive year. TTAB serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States, and it is crucial to include Indian Country in these national conversations.

To learn more about the Annual Congressional Summit on Travel and Tourism, visit:

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