The tourism association for indigenous communities in the U.S. is focusing on training programs and attracting visitors from Italy and Germany.

The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association conducted a recent training program for indigenous tourism professionals that focused in part on Italian visitation. Nearly 50 professionals participated and that was a small uptick from the program’s launch last year. Trainees came from Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Washington, Arizona, and Montana to take part in the program in Albuquerque, New Mexico,

The association has had some success in attracting international tourists.

“Three years ago we went to Showcase USA-Italy and introduced Native cultural tourism to that market for the first time,” said Camille Ferguson, executive director of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association. “They were so intrigued that after the first year we had 79 percent growth.”

The association worked with Brand USA and the U.S. Commercial Service in Italy to develop a tour for Italian travel media through the Southwest. Another such tour is in the works to the Pacific Northwest. Ferguson also reported steady growth from the German market.

However, Ferguson is also concerned with recent political uncertainty. She said that “Indian Country [visitation] has maintained a flat line” throughout the worse-than-anticipated Trump Slump, but the association is still bracing for a possible downturn.

“We all know that we’re going to be affected by what happens to the United States,” she said.

Ferguson reported an increase in indigenous tourism professionals wanting to list their businesses on NativeAmerica.travel, a destination site for all of Indian Country, which includes indigenous-run attractions, hotels, and restaurants in the United States.

The association is still trying to aggregate more listings and data. Some businesses prefer direct bookings and downplay such third-party sites. While many of the larger casinos and hotels list themselves on major online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline, the smaller attractions and tour operators are slower to give up control of the booking process.

Photo Credit: The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association conducted a press tour for Italian travel media in June 2017. This photo was taken in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. AIANTA / American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association