Economic Impact Study Reveals Native Tourism is a $14 Billion Industry

The Native hospitality industry supports 117,852 jobs according to the new Economic Impact of Indigenous Tourism Businesses Report, released by the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA).

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (October 26, 2021) —Native American tourism is a $14 billion industry according to the new Economic Impact of Indigenous Tourism Report produced by the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) in partnership with Honolulu-based SMS Research.

The report, the first to formally track the economic impact of Native-owned hospitality businesses, also revealed that one in four American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian (AIANNH) owned firms are directly or indirectly supported by the tourism industry. These 40,618 businesses provide 117,852 jobs across the country.

“This report confirms that Indigenous tourism businesses in the U.S. are an economic powerhouse,” said Sherry L. Rupert, AIANTA CEO. “For too long, the Native hospitality industry has not had hard data to back up the perceived value of its economic impact, so we are delighted to release this study. We are especially thrilled to learn that more than one in four Native-owned businesses are hospitality businesses.”

The report was produced by Honolulu-based SMS Research under the guidance of the firm’s Executive Vice President Daniel Nāhoʻopiʻi (Kanaka Maoli, Native Hawaiian), who formerly managed the tourism research program for the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

“This report showcases the importance of tourism to Native businesses,” said Nāhoʻopiʻi. “Especially since AIANNH-owned hospitality businesses report a larger-than-average number of employees (among firms with paid employees) and larger than average sales (across all firms) than their AIAANNH counterparts who are not engaged in the tourism industry.”

Key Findings:

  • In 2017, annual sales by AIANNH-owned tourism firms contributed close to $14.0 billion to the U.S. economy.
  • AIAANH-owned firms in the tourism sector directly provided 117,852 jobs for workers across the United States.
  • The accommodation and food services sector employed the most workers (45,756 jobs), while the retail trade sector accounted for the highest annual sales ($7.79 billion).
  • Of the 40,618 AIANNH-owned tourism firms, most (82%) were self-employed individuals (33,300 non-employer firms) while another 7,318 (18%) of them were firms with paid employees.
  • Compared to all AIANNH-owned firms, AIANNH-owned tourism firms were at an advantage since the average number of employees for firms with paid employees was larger and the average sales across all firms were also greater.
  • AIANNH-owned tourism firms were smaller in scale (payroll, wages, sales) than tourism firms in the U.S on average.

View the entire Economic Impact of Indigenous Tourism Businesses Report here.


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About the Economic Impact of Indigenous Tourism Study
Data for the Economic Impact of Indigenous Tourism Report was collected from the Annual Business Survey and the new 2020 Nonemployer Statistics by Demographic (NES-D). Since the most recent data collected for NES-D, the study utilized the 2018 ABS survey (2017 data) in order to accurately benchmark information across all business types.

For nearly two decades, the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) has served as the national center for providing tourism and recreational travel technical assistance, training and capacity building to American Indian nations. AIANTA is a 501(c)(3) national nonprofit association of Native American tribes and tribal businesses and was incorporated in 2002 to advance Indian Country tourism. AIANTA’s mission is to define, introduce, grow and sustain American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tourism that honors traditions and values.

About SMS
Established in 1960, SMS is a major contributor to marketing research, consulting, social and economic studies, program evaluation, and government-level policy studies for local, national, Pacific Basin and international clients. As a full-service research and marketing company, SMS designs and executes research that provides clients with actionable information. The firm’s extensive experience in visitor industry research helps inform the data collection and analysis needs of Hawaii’s visitor industry.

For more information and images, contact:

Monica Poling
Marketing & PR Manager, AIANTA

Daniel Nāhoʻopiʻi
Executive Vice President
SMS Research