2018 AITC Media Tip Sheet

The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) presents its 20th Annual American Indian Tourism Conference (AITC), 20 years of Tribal Tourism Development – Then and Now. This milestone conference on September 17-20, 2018, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will be held where the first AITC was staged back in 1991.



Sunday, September 16
Charity Golf Tournament; Isleta Eagle Golf Course

Monday, September 17
Mobile Workshops: Acoma Pueblo, Puye Cliffs and the Navajo Nation

September 18-20
American Indian Tourism Conference; Isleta Resort & Casino

Conference Overview
AITC provides an overview on the state of tourism in Indian Country and connects tribal leaders and tourism enterprises with tourism and hospitality professionals in order to expand and grow tourism in tribal communities.

The conference is comprised of more than 20 seminars and workshops, a tourism tradeshow and plenty of networking sessions for idea sharing and connecting with other like-minded business professionals.

Conference Schedule


More than 300 tribal and non-Native American tourism officials and professionals

AIANTA Mission
To define, introduce, grow and sustain American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tourism that honors traditions and values.

Press Contacts
Monica Poling, mpoling@aianta.org
Kim Baca, kim@kbacaconsulting.com

Press Credentials
Media must register for press credentials by sending an email with their name, company, title, website or blog, and topic of interest (if applicable) to Monica Poling at mpoling@aianta.org no later than Friday, September 14. Passes will be issued to press at the registration table.

Tuesday, September 18 is Regalia Day, a day when conference attendees are encouraged to wear traditional clothing representing their tribal affiliation. As with any event, please ask permission before taking any photos. Photography, video or recordings will also not be allowed during prayers or any ceremonial occasions.

Various traditional and Native performances will take place throughout the conference, including Grammy-nominated Apache/Navajo performer Joe Tohonnie, Jr., with his White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers and the beloved Levi Platero Band, which won a New Mexico Music Award for their blues single, “Take Me Back.”

Media Topics of Interest

Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act

  • At the 2018 American Indian Tourism Conference, AIANTA Executive Director Camille Ferguson will join Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs and Mike Platt, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce in signing an historic Memorandum of Understanding designating AIANTA as the national nonprofit association charged with working with federal agencies to carry out the NATIVE Act
  • The NATIVE Act, which mandates that federal agencies with travel or tourism functions update their management plans and tourism initiatives to include Indian tribes and tribal organizations as well as Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian organizations, also stipulates that the departments of the Interior and Commerce designate a national non-profit serve as a facilitator to help carry out its provisions.

Indian Country & International Visitation Numbers

  • Nearly 2 million overseas travelers reported visiting an Indian Country community in 2016, and those numbers continue to grow. By 2020, that number is expected to grow to 2.3 million visitors according to the U.S. Travel Association.
  • Cultural heritage travelers are an important demographic for tribal tourism enterprises, as these travelers stay an average of 11.7 nights in a hotel or motel and feature an average (mean) household income of $79,246, according to the National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO.)

Experts: Rick Cain, Vice President, Longwoods International USA Inc., and Julie Heizer, Deputy Director, National Travel and Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce

 Sustainable Tourism

  • The George Washington University’s International Institute of Tourism Studies, G Adventures and Planeterra partnered in 2016 to develop “Indigenous People and the Travel Industry: Global Good Practice Guidelines,” a set of practical, international guidelines that reflect diverse perspectives and can be used by travel companies looking to offer experiences with indigenous communities.

Experts: Seleni Matus, Executive Director, International Institute of Tourism Studies, The George Washington University; Anna Barrera, Owner, A2B Consulting; Mario Fulmer, Visitor Program Manager, Alaska Native Voices; Lee Vale, Business Development and Operations Manager, Alaska Native Voices

  • The dramatic global growth of international tourism has also led to an increase in “overtourism” that can often have devastating effects on local communities. Industry experts speak to how Indian Country tourism enterprises are managing tourism growth in a sustainable and responsible manner.

Experts: Dr. Susan Guyette, Ph.D., Santa Fe Planning & Research; Theodore (Ted) Jojola, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Regents’ Professor, Community and Regional Planning Program, School of Architecture + Planning, University of New Mexico

  • Operators in remote locations are offering increasingly popular experiences, especially with adventure travelers. One such example, operated by the Regional Alaska Native Corporation and Koniag, Inc., Kodiak Brown Bear Center represents a rich example of sustainable tourism development that is founded on Alutiiq heritage and stewardship. The center has been featured on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and the Disney Channel, and is located on Kodiak Island, the second-largest island in the U.S.

Experts: Dr. Kristin Lamoureux, Visiting Professor, Hospitality and Tourism, Virginia Tech University; Jon Panamaroff, CEO, Kodiak Brown Bear Center; Christina Beckmann, Senior Director, Strategy & Impact, Adventure Travel Trade Association

Native-Owned RV Parks & Campgrounds

  • RV sites and campgrounds provide another hospitality offering for tribes looking to diversify their economic development. New tribal RV sites are not your mom and pop’s KOA–some have Wi-Fi, full kitchens, ball courts and cable. RV site developers are looking at changing demographics of the next generation of RV campers, a diverse mix of age, ethnic, and racial groups, and shifting expectations about the use and enjoyment of parks and campgrounds.

Experts: Michael Ochs, Director of Governmental Affairs, Recreational Vehicle Association; Terry Heslin, State Recreation and Transportation Lead, New Mexico State Office, Bureau of Land Management

Building National Partnerships

  • The USDA, the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service (NPS) offer a range of programs, resources and potential partnerships for tribes looking to offer a richer and accurate history of their ancestral lands.
  • Recently AIANTA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NPS to develop a tribal travel guide for the ANZA Trail, a 1,200-mile long trail that that crosses Arizona and California and commemorates the journey of Spanish settlers as they traveled north to San Francisco.
  • The NPS also teamed with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska to interpret Sitka’s historical park holdings, the first agreement of its kind in the country. Additionally, tribes located near the south rim of the Grand Canyon offer cultural interpretations on behalf of the NPS.
  • Tribal enterprises are also partnering with national corporations, as is the case of Alaska Native Voices which has been retained by Cunard Line to provide lectures and workshops about the history, culture, and storytelling of the Huna Tlingit tribe, the ancestral people of Glacier Bay National Park.

Experts: Donald Leadbetter, Tourism Program Manager, NPS; Reed Robinson, Manager, National Park Service Tribal Liaison Officer (Acting); Angela West, National Program Lead, Tourism & Community Service, Bureau of Land Management; Toby Bloom, National Program Manager for Tourism, Travel and Interpretation, U.S. Forest Service; Kaisa Barthuli, Program Manager, National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program; Mario Fulmer, Visitor Program Manager, Alaska Native Voices and AIANTA Board Member.

Social Profiles

Twitter: @OfficialAIANTA
Instagram: @AIANTA_Official
Facebook: American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association

Conference Hashtags