President Barack Obama has signed into law bipartisan legislation that will provide native communities access to planning and resources to help them develop cultural tourism programs. The NATIVE Act will require federal agencies with tourism assets and responsibilities to include tribes and native organizations in national tourism efforts and strategic planning. It will also provide Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, and American Indian communities with access to resources and technical assistance needed to build sustainable recreational and cultural travel and tourism infrastructure and capacity; spur economic development and create good jobs.
That includes identifying programs that support tourism infrastructure in Native American communities, developing visitor portals and assets that showcase Native American diversity, sharing local Native American heritage through bilingual signage and improving access to transportation programs to promote tourism and trade in Native American communities.
The Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz and John Thune, and supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders including the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, U.S. Travel Association, American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association, Southeast Tourism Society, Western States Tourism Policy Council, National Congress of American Indians, Alaska Federation of Natives, and the Native Enterprise Initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m incredibly proud to have worked with our native communities on this legislation, and I’m pleased the president has signed it into law,” said Senator Schatz. “This new law gives our native communities a real opportunity to grow their local economy and share their history and culture with the rest of the world.”
Sherry L. Rupert, American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) Board President, said “this is an incredibly important day for Indian Country tourism, the beginning of an important collaboration between the federal, tribal and nonprofit sectors to strengthen and grow cultural heritage tourism in the U.S. We thank the President for signing the bill, and Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) for shepherding the legislation through Congress.”
Tourism in the United States and in Indian Country is one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of U.S. economic development and job creation. International tourism to Indian Country grew 181% from 2007 to 2015, resulting in $8.6 billion in direct spending, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures.
“This law will empower native communities to tell their own stories and build their own economic opportunities, said Senator Brian Schatz. “Visitors are increasingly seeking out a more authentic and historically rich travel experience, and there is nothing more authentic and unique than the cultural tourism experience our native communities provide.”
“This is a good, common-sense bill that will have a real impact in tribal communities throughout the country, including the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations in South Dakota,” said Senator John Thune.
“The NATIVE Act is a strong piece of legislation that will drive economic growth not only in Native lands and cultural attractions, but also for communities in every corner of the country,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “We are pleased to see our government prioritize a measure to expand travel and tourism promotion and attract more international visitors, whose trips often have a tremendous positive ripple effect on the surrounding local economy.”
But in Hawaii, author Sydney Lehua Iaukea, who holds a doctorate in political science, raised some concerns about the legislation, and highlighted the complexity that surrounds the mixing of Native Hawaiian culture with commercial tourism in an article published on 15 September on Mauitime.com.
The text of the bill can be accessed here.
This is article was first published by CABI. Read the original article here: Native American Tourism act signed into law