2021 in Review: A Snapshot of AIANTA’s Year

2021 was an incredibly productive year for AIANTA. Join us in celebrating some of our top accomplishments and memorable moments for the past year.

American Indian Tourism Conference

AIANTA CEO Sherry L. Rupert, Board Members Kirby Metoxen, Mary Goddard, Camille Ferguson, Rachel Moreno and Board President Emerson Vallo at AITC 2021.

23rd Annual American Indian Tourism Conference
In 2021 AIANTA held the 23rd Annual American Indian Tourism Conference at the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort at the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in Arizona. In total, we had nearly 300 attendees representing 29 states, two Canadian provinces and more than 25 tribes. Unsurprisingly, the largest cohorts came from Arizona and New Mexico, but our third-largest delegate group came all the way from Alaska. The next largest delegations came from California, Oklahoma, Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Hawai‘i. The conference featured three keynote speakers, 48 general session speakers and 21 breakout sessions.

Regional Outreach

Regional Speaking Engagements
AIANTA’s Board and staff provide outreach and education through speaking engagements at conferences and tradeshows around the country. This year’s lineup included appearances in partnership with the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service; Arizona State University; U.S. Embassy Helsinki, Finland; University of Vermont Extension; Indian Pueblo Cultural Center; Tourism Cares; RES 2021 (in-person presentations); Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism (in-person presentations); World Indigenous Tourism Alliance; Governors Interstate Indian Council; George Washington University; National Trails System; Hargrove International, Inc. and Temple University. In total, AIANTA CEO Sherry L. Rupert’s speaker engagements resulted in outreach to 1,267 participants.

Visitor Outreach

Showcase USA-Italy
The annual Showcase USA-Italy, organized by U.S. Commercial Service and Visit USA Association Italy, is the ideal event for new-to-market tribal enterprises. In 2021 exhibitors had the chance to virtually meet with 25 – 30 major Italian tour operators and travel media in pre-scheduled appointments. AIANTA hosted 25 meetings with Italian media and tour groups such as Gastaldi Holidays, BIGMAMA and Alidays.

Travel Trade Manual:  A Planner for Indigenous Tourism Professionals
In October, AIANTA launched the new Travel Trade Manual:  A Planner for Indigenous Tourism Professionals. This manual is designed as a learning tool to help indigenous tourism destinations and experiences learn best practices on working with retail travel agents, receptive operators, international wholesalers and other distribution partners also known as the Travel Trade.

NativeAmerica.travel, AIANTA’s consumer website, attracted more than 240,000 page views in FY2021. The only consumer-facing destination website, NativeAmerica.travel provides ideas and inspiration for travelers interested in visiting Indian Country.

Education, Technical Assistance and Training

Go International
To help tribes elevate their international tourism marketing programs, AIANTA conducted the annual Go International training workshop, in April 2021. In 2021, Go International went virtual due to the pandemic and safety concerns. There were a total of 20 participants from five AIANTA regions.

Attendees had the opportunity to learn about Understanding the Travel Trade Distribution System to Negotiating the Authentic Indigenous Experience. During the two-day conference attendees were also able to complete a hands on session on “Building Your Itinerary” and present their itinerary to our guest group tour operators from Destination America and Collette.

Webinar Series
In 2021, AIANTA rolled out another robust webinar series with our partners from National Park Service, the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail and the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, along with the Native American Agricultural Fund (NAAF). Topics covered a variety of subjects, ranging from Authentic Storytelling Through Architecture & Design to Planning for Cultural Tourism. Our most popular webinar for 2021 was in partnership with NPS Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Mapping Indigenous Place Names with Margaret Pearce, Cartographer, Citizen Potawatomi Nation. This year’s webinar series registration numbers increased by 129% over 2020 . The number of registrants for 2021 totaled 3,313 compared to 2020’s numbers at 1,448.

View past recorded webinars from 2021, here.

Professional Certificate Program in Cultural Heritage Tourism
In our continued partnership with the George Washington University, AIANTA launched its fourth annual Professional Certificate Program in Cultural Heritage Tourism in 2021. The program consisted of six courses including the following: Introduction to Cultural Heritage Tourism, Tourism Resilience, Tourism Planning and Management, Community-Based Tourism Product Development, Tourism Marketing, and Workforce Development.

With assistance from NATIVE Act funding, AIANTA was able to offer 40 scholarships to Native/Indigenous tourism professionals for this certificate program. There were a total of 73 participants for this cohort. Registrants represented all six AIANTA regions, with the highest registrations from the Pacific, Alaska, and Southwest Regions. Based on the course evaluations, 95% of survey respondents for the Winter 2021 program indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that they now have a better understanding of the course topics.

Cultural Heritage Tourism Guide
In 2021 AIANTA created the Cultural Heritage Tourism Planner. Within the pages of the guidebook are the stories of the many tribes, Native business owners and other hospitality professionals who are taking control of their narrative, elevating their culture bearers, reclaiming their histories and driving better economic opportunities for their citizens while doing so.

AIANTA Partnerships

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
In 2021, AIANTA continued to work with the National Park Service to find and tell the stories of tribes located adjacent to or associated with the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Over 100 interviews have been held with tribes and Native-owned businesses. Onsite visits were conducted to tribes and businesses along the Trail in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Western Montana.

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
AIANTA is also working with the National Park Service to chronicle the tribal voices located adjacent to or associated with the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. At the end of the project a print and online guidebook will be available listing tribal attractions along the trail accompanied with place name maps with traditional names for Indigenous sites of significance. For more information, https://www.aianta.org/anza-trail/

AIANTA Membership

Expanded Membership
The 2021 campaign saw AIANTA’s membership revenue nearly double over the same period last year, with 213 new members and a significant number of renewing members nearly tripling over 2019. The Board of Directors also approved 15 new regions to improve outreach and services to tribes and Native communities.

Marketing, Media & Public Relations

AIANTA Research

The Economic Impact of of U.S. Indigenous Tourism Businesses
The Economic Impact of of U.S. Indigenous Tourism Businesses Report describes the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiians (AIANNH) owned businesses in the United States’ tourism and hospitality sector see the full report, www.aianta.org/research/

State of Indian Country Tourism
AIANTA conducted a survey querying the AIANTA database of Native- and tribally owned hospitality businesses and found that nearly 70% of respondents believe tourism will increase greatly (20%) or somewhat (48%) in 2022. View the full report, www.aianta.org/indian-country-survey-results/

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

Native American Agriculture Fund

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Bureau of Land Management

National Endowment of the Arts

National Park Service

United States Forest Service