A delegation from seven tribes is heading to Germany this week as part of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association’s (AIANTA) international plan to promote tourism in Indian Country. The tribal delegation 27 members and their businesses will be spotlighted in the Discover America Pavilion over five days at ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show. The event lasts from March 9th to the 13th.
“Tourism allows us to introduce America’s First Nations to the world, and international visitors flock to our homelands,” said Tina Osceola in a press release, president of AIANTA’s board of directors and an executive officer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. “Tribal tourism provides a cultural platform for international visitors to see, hear and engage with Indian people in an authentic way that only we can offer. We’re creating greater exposure for foreign travelers to visit Native America, and working to expand our marketshare in international tourism.”
European travelers have long been fascinated with American Indians, particularly in Germany where there are some 400 clubs devoted to exploring Native Americanculture. “Tribes are a huge draw at ITB Berlin,” said Staci Eagle Elk, public affairs specialist for AIANTA, which is based in Albuquerque, NM. “There are three busy trade days where tour operators from around the world come to ‘book and buy,’ followed by two public days where thousands of people jam the venue. We hope this exposure creates increased tourism and greater awareness of Indian Nations.”
This marks the third year AIANTA members are taking part in ITB Berlin as a joint effort between AIANTA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Tourism is an avenue to educate the world and our children that our cultures have survived and will thrive into the future,” said Ed Hall in a press release, a Tourism and Transportation Specialist for the BIA who helped found AIANTA. ”The effort with Discover America Pavilion was instrumental in providing Indian Country with a tangible reference point of what the international marketplace has to offer and what it takes for tribes to participate on their own terms. We’re defining the industry and our destinations on the terms of our communities. The empowerment of being in control is also about authenticity of message and information.”
The AIANTA delegation has a series of cultural and arts demonstrations planned for the five-day event, including visits to two local schools. “One of our goals is to educate mainstream society about Native cultures as a means to overcome barriers, build bridges and share our traditions,” said Eagle Elk. “It gives us an opportunity to work with diverse groups and share the uniqueness of hundreds of tribes in the United States.”