By Rachel Cromer
Travel and tourism is the largest services export industry for the United States. Last year, 75.6 million international tourists visited the United States collectively spending $244.7 billion across the country. Travel and tourism exports support 1.1 million U.S. jobs with total employee compensation for this sector exceeding $220 billion annually, according to the Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO).
These numbers make tourism America’s No. 1 service export, comprising 33 percent of all services exports in 2016, and 11 percent of exports overall. When looking to economic opportunity specifically for Native America, tourism is a strong industry—it is estimated by 2021 that 48,642 jobs will be supported by international travelers to the U.S. who visit Indian Country, and 2.4 million overseas travelers will visit Native American destinations. (All U.S. tourism statistics in this article were provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, National Travel and Tourism Office.)
The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association has seen this demand grow. Overseas visitation increased from a low point of 693,000 when the organization started its international outreach in 2007 to 1.96 million in 2016—more than a 180 increase. While 2016 overseas travel to the USA was down 2 percent, visitation to Indian Country saw no decline—showing international interest and visitation in Native communities remains strong.
Recognizing that Indian Country is a unique part of the national and international visitor experience in America, AIANTA is taking a collaborative approach. By tying outreach to promotion and marketing, AIANTA is ensuring Native communities contribute to and share in the benefits of the travel industry– including the significant job growth, increased revenue, strengthened culture and community development.
Tourism is an economic driver in Indian Country, providing a bright future for tribes committed to creating strong cultural tourism programs. Tribal programs have produced cultural, social and economic successes that promote environmental protection and historic preservation while sharing traditions and cultural legacies to domestic and international visitors.
AIANTA represents Native tourism through an expansive international outreach program—and this year is introducing even more oportunities. The organization’s program includes participation in some of the world’s largest travel tradeshows: ITB Berlin, Showcase USA-Italy, WTM London and the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW. AIANTA is also hosting the second annual Go International, a two-day training seminar that focuses on preparing tribes and native-owned businesses for the international marketplace.
AIANTA hosts tribes that are ready to enter the international market at ITB, and is now intrducing the same opportunity at Showcase USA-Italy and WTM London. As part of our role as host, we provide pre and post show support in marketing, promotion and in-depth training. These efforts are showing strong results.
From 2014 to 2016, American Indian communities saw a 19 percent increase in international visitors—from 1.65 million to 1.96 million. All of this, not to mention a 79 percent increase in Italian travelers (some of the highest spending travelers) to Indian Country following AIANTA’s first year showcasing Native America to Italy.
AIANTA’s efforts to support America’s top service export has gained national recognition. In 2016, AIANTA was the first Native Organization to win the Presidential Award for Export Service. It also received an award from the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP).
The MDCP award will help AIANTA train tribes and native-owned businesses in marketing to European residents and launch a web-based outreach campaign to showcase destinations, attractions, landscapes and tours. The MDCP resources are expected to increase tribal tourism revenues from the United Kingdom and Italy by approximately $6 million during the next three years. Providing Indian Country even more resources, the MDCP award includes extensive technical assistance from ITA to strengthen tourism in Native America, ultimately increasing U.S. exports.
Further empowering Indian Country in this massive industry, the NTTO says thecharacteristics of overseas visitors to Indian Country are good for the entire industry. In other words, international travelers to Indian Country are the kind of visitors travel destination in general strive to attract. Destinations prefer the leisure market rather than business and VFR travelers (visiting friends and relatives) who go to specific places based on their purpose of trip. Leisure travelers go to destinations specific to their interests.
Seventy percent of the overseas travelers to Native American sites are on a vacation, compared to 58 percent for all overseas travelers. Additionally, the length of stay for visitors to Indian Country was 30 days on average, compared to the 18 days for all overseas visitors (2015 statistics). All of this boils down to Indian Country visitors contributing more per capita to the U.S. than other visitors.
How to Participate
AIANTA works diligently to provide the educational and technical support; connectivity to enable capacity building; and, outreach both domestically and internationally, to support cultural voices and economic development throughout Indian Country. We have seen the impact of tourism across Indian Country in preserving and promoting distinct tribal communities and of the power of telling our own stories to the world.
With our support, past participants hosted by AIANTA at international tradeshows have been provided a unique platform to market internationally with Indian Country as a whole, providing connections with tourism contacts with vested interest in supporting Native tourism in the U.S.
In 2017, participants within the AIANTA International Program interacted with hundreds of travel and tourism representatives from across the globe, making invaluable connections, spurring business transactions and generating media attention all over the world.
AIANTA wants to include you in the international marketplace.
We are accepting applicants now. Join our international outreach team as you prepare to market your tourism product to the growing international tourism market. To join us or learn more, please contact Rachel Cromer Howard at (505) 724-3578 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ♦