`Ano`ai kakou… On February 12, 2013, the Board of Directors for the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) approved my nomination as one of two Pacific Representatives. This is a great opportunity for all Native Hawaiians to network with American Indians and Alaska Natives to develop and implement programs that will help our communities build for the future while sustaining and strengthening our cultural legacy.
AIANTA is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit association of Native communities and businesses that were organized in 1999 to advance tourism in territories under the controlled of Native peoples. The association is made up of member tribes from six regions: Eastern, Plains, Midwest, Southwest, Pacific and Alaska.
AIANTA’s Mission is to define, introduce, grow and sustain American Indian and Alaska Native tourism that honors and sustains tribal traditions and values. AIANTA serves as voice and resource for its constituents in advancing tourism, assist tribes in creating infrastructure and capacity, provide technical assistance, training and educational resources to tribes, tribal organizations and tribal members. AIANTA also serves as the liaison between Indian Country and governmental and private entities for the development, growth, and sustenance of Indian Country tourism.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international visitors spent a record $14.3 billion in August 2012. Each March, AIANTA sponsors an expansive American Indian Pavilion at ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel and trade show. This provides Tribal tourism departments the opportunity to showcase their programs and tour packages to the European tourism industry.
AIANTA booth participants have made invaluable contacts with international travel organizations, media and tour operators. They were featured in the Brand USA Discover America Pavilion, attracting large crowds of participants and hundreds of international travel media representatives. More than 172,032 trade professionals and consumers participated in ITB 2012.
Public Lands Outreach
Every major national park or monument in the American west has a relationship to a significant Native sacred site. The upcoming National Parks Service centennial anniversary in 2016 affords Native peoples the opportunity to raise public consciousness on issues such as cultural resource protections, ancestral use of park lands, and participate in the benefits arising from increased visitation to the national parks during the centennial.
In 2011, AIANTA entered into a partnership with the National Park Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to insure full, uncensored tribal participation in NPS centennial interpretations, education, tourism and other programming efforts.
The annual American Indian Tourism Conference, co-hosted by various Native American tribes in their homelands, is designed to share knowledge, experience and best practices from both tribal and non-tribal tourism programs around the United States. Each conference features mobile workshops, networking events and presentations from experts in the travel & tourism industry.
I see many similarities in the missions of both OHA and AIANTA. We both serve as the voice and as a resource for our Native constituents. We also serve as a much needed liaison between our respective Native Communities and governmental and private entities for the promotion, growth and development of economic opportunities and programs.
I look forward to working closely with AIANTA over the next few years to help our beneficiaries build for their future while sustaining and strengthening our cultural legacy. Aloha Ke Akua.