Bill to Empower Native Communities, Boost Tourism Signed into Law

WASHINGTON, DC – A bill co-sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) to enhance and integrate native tourism, empower native communities, and expand unique cultural tourism opportunities in the United States, the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act, has been signed into law by President Obama. Congressman Don Young (R-AK) co-sponsored companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The NATIVE Act would require federal agencies with tourism assets and responsibilities to include tribes and native organizations in national tourism efforts and strategic planning. It would 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.

“This important piece of legislation will give cultural tourism a much-needed boost,” said Senator Murkowski.  “Tourism contributed $3.9 billion to Alaska’s economy last year, and this bill will give Alaska Native communities and small businesses the opportunity to share their traditions and cultures with travelers from all over the world.”

“Working towards diversifying our economy is extremely important and this bill helps in that effort,” said Senator Sullivan. “For rural Alaska, the economic development potential is huge, and it will also help to showcase for the rest of the world rural Alaska’s uniqueness and beauty.”

“Alaska is recognized as a premier travel destination, not only for our state’s abundant beauty but for our welcoming people and rich cultural history,” said Congressman Young. “The NATIVE Act, which I proudly co-sponsored in the House, makes important steps to empower Alaska Native and American Indian communities by increasing collaboration and coordination of federal efforts to promote tourism in these areas. Tourism is a significant source of revenue and employment for Alaskans, and this legislation ensures Alaska’s culture and heritage is supported throughout our federal tourism programs.”

“The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) applauds the Alaska's leadership, Senator Sullivan, Senator Murkowski and Congressman Don Young for their support and co-sponsorship of the NATIVE Act.” said Camille Ferguson, AIANTA executive director. “This legislation will forever impact the ability of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes and Native Hawaiians to promote their authentic stories through tourism, while also providing increased opportunity for economic development and cultural sustainability for tribes especially in rural areas.”

The bill is supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders including the U.S. Travel Association, American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association, Western States Tourism Policy Council, National Congress of American Indians, Alaska Federation of Natives, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Native American Contractors Association, and the Native Enterprise Initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska