Data from the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) show that the number of international visitors to Native American destinations nearly tripled between 2007 and 2015, from 693,000 to 1,958,000.
The organization’s goal is to boost that number above 2.3 million by 2020.
AIANTA also reports that in 2015, international visitors to Indian Country supported over 41,000 jobs in the U.S. — by 2020 the organization hopes to see that figure exceed 48,000.
A new training program called Go International launched last month in Albuquerque, New Mexico after a successful pilot program. Go International allows AIANTA to meet with Native American tourism professionals and offer educational support for growing their international audience.
The training program over the course of two days addressed topics including data tracking; international product distribution; working with the media; using NativeAmerica.travel as a marketing tool, and how to price, package, and present product.
“The cultural tourism development [session] was especially successful,” said Rachel Cromer Howard, a spokesperson for AIANTA. This session covered how tribes can “keep certain traditions and pieces of their culture private while still being able to offer these tours and educate people.”
Data was a key topic as well, including “how to track international travel and collect that data, which is more difficult when you’re in a rural area,” said Howard. When asked about feedback from Go International participants, she said, “overall we got really positive feedback.”
The destination marketing site NativeAmerica.travel, the first of its kind, is a crucial part of a new Native American tourism push, which gathered steam over the last couple of years. The site helps travelers plan multi-day, multi-destination trips that focus on Native American destinations throughout the U.S.
“The site is becoming a lot more popular; we’re still working on content creation,” said Howard.
Next month AIANTA will have a pavilion at ITB Berlin to pursue the German, Italian, and UK markets especially. “In Italy they’re a really high-spending market. They have a lot of interest in national parks, historical experiences, educational experiences,” said Howard.
At ITB Berlin, AIANTA will tout a recent major project: the Desert View Watchtower at Grand Canyon National Park, an inter-tribal cultural heritage center.
Howard also said her organization will focus on second-time visitors to the U.S. who want to dig deeper than the usual first-time destinations like New York or Disney World.