April 24, 2020
Our People First
Planning for when travel resumes
Dear Members and Friends:
Native Nations and Communities have responded to COVID-19 by defining their priority – our people first. Our Nations and Communities have acted without hesitation to protect and provide for their members and they have not faltered. Although still in the early phases of understanding and addressing the health implications of COVID-19, and as we move towards the other side of this crisis, this focus will ensure our Nations and Communities will be able to regroup and rebuild – together. 

One of the many impacts of COVID-19 has been the cancellation of events and large gatherings. With each cancellation, another sense of normalcy is eroded. As many of you know, AIANTA was able to host the first Tribal Row at IPW 2019, the largest travel and tradeshow in the U.S. We were disappointed to learn, due to the travel restrictions and health risks, IPW 2020 has been cancelled

Although a significant setback for the travel industry, there are indications that IPW 2021 will be held at a time of improving economic conditions.  In the recent April economic projections from the IMF , economic reductions are estimated at -3 percent for the global economy in 2020, with 2021 seen as a time of economic activity normalizing with global projected economic growth of 5.8%. As we move towards that normalcy, AIANTA will continue to support Tribal Row when IPW 2021 is held next year. We look forward to supporting your efforts to showcase your cultural tourism product alongside other iconic destinations across the United States.

Despite the current challenges and setbacks, tourism is an industry of community. In the months and years to come, an area of opportunity that can be initiated now is marketing directly to your future traveler:

  1. Focus on your existing traveling base with outreach and gratitude. Reach out to past guests and future bookings to let them know you care about their health and safety and are looking forward to when you can meet again.
  2. Identify potential visitors (those that are already drawn to your region/state). Reach out to your tourism partners, such as your state’s Tourism Department and local Visitor Bureaus to access visitor data.
  3. Identify and target visitor demographics and focus areas that best fit with your-tourism destination/product/event.

This is another area in which your state and/or regional partners can help you through their research and analytics of visitor demographics and profiles. For example, if you are a public land gateway community, you may have a large number of visitors from a mid-to-older age demographic focused on ecotourism – they are coming to see pristine locations and want to conserve it and may fit with your land ethic and tourism product.

Once identified, look for marketing opportunities that support your approach including personalized messaging sent directly or through social media; add your listing on NativeAmerica.travel , the only consumer facing destination website dedicated to American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tourism. Listings are provided at no charge to tribes or qualifying tourism product/destinations.

Develop tourism linkage strategies to cross-promote your tourism product with other attractions in your region. Also look to your Native and non-native partners for shared opportunities to get the word out about your destination and other regional tourism opportunities. Check your state tourism office for co-op funding and/or other forms of marketing support.

Like you, I look forward to when we can all see each other again – until then, my staff and I will continue to work to support you and your cultural tourism efforts. 

With gratitude and prayers of healing,

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