May 7, 2020
What COVID-19 has Revealed
Dear Members and Friends:
COVID-19 has challenged us and changed us.  We have had to focus on the mundane and the critical and look beyond the now and into the future. As we are moving through and responding to the challenges that face us, we are also continuing to hopefully and plan-fully lay the groundwork for recovery. To get there we must ask ourselves “What do I want to continue and what do I want to change?”

Our shared challenges and collective responses have required us to find new paths to old doors (the things we want to continue). For example, we have challenged ourselves to connect in new ways. From our elders to our children, we are utilizing electronic communications more than ever before to ensure connectivity with our family, friends, neighbors and the world. We have identified a need and a solution. 

We have also found on those paths many friends to help us get there. We have joined forces to ensure inclusion through a collective voice and shared knowledge. Our Native Nations, organizations and communities have weathered this storm together. 

The disruptions brought about by COVID-19 have forced us to look at what isn’t working . Each Native Nation, organization and community will have different answers to this important question as we re-open. Something to consider as we look to open our segment of the world’s largest industry: what do you want to continue and what do you want to change about tourism? 

If cultural tourism is a tool to perpetuate our distinct cultures creating an environment that supports our languages, arts, foods and cultural practices – how do we invest in this powerful tool for effective and impactful results? What is your focus – the number of tours, or the type of visitor? What is the entry point for a visitor – is it a drive-by tour or is it an independent traveler finding the entry point and staying to learn, see and do more?

An April 29, 2020 survey by Longwoods International , a visitor research firm, found that 92% of those surveyed intend to travel in the next 6 months. Of those, 86% planned on visiting a domestic destination. Further, for that trip, 74% are planning on traveling by car. The survey also revealed that a little over one-half of the travel will be within 200 miles. 

As you look to re-open, identify in this first wave of travel the visitor you are looking for and help them get there by identifying the entry point to visit and learn about your Native Nation or community. Define what is available (a visitor center, horseback riding tours, places to stay, etc.) and what is expected. Identify your partners for connecting the story of place – encourage and assist the visitor to develop and explore an itinerary that allows for a broader picture and understanding, and a longer stay and investment within your Native Nation or community. 

In addition to your own marketing and outreach, please also consider utilizing ; the only consumer facing destination website dedicated to American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tourism provided without charge and managed by AIANTA
COVID-19 has revealed we are better together.

AIANTA is a small organization with a big idea – to serve the mission to define, introduce, grow and sustain American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tourism that honors traditions and values. We are also finding new paths to old doors. We are adapting to ensure we are connecting and serving you with all the tools we can access and building strategic partnerships to make that happen. 

As part of our effort to identify what is needed to serve our mission, if you haven’t already, please let us know how COVID-19 is impacting your tourism efforts here and let us know your thoughts about how you would like to experience our annual American Indian Tourism Conference (AITC) here .

Until we meet again,

Sherry L. Rupert, Chief Executive Officer
American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA)