Stephen Collier is a Communications Specialist for the U.S. Commercial Service, Southwest Network
An acknowledgement of true achievement took place July 26 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center: a celebration in honor of the first Native American organization to win the President’s “E” Award for Export Services.
The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association was recognized in May by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker along with 122 other companies and organizations across the United States that have contributed to increased exports in their respective industries nationwide.
In attendance at the event were representatives from the offices of Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM). Rep. Grisham represents the New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which includes the Albuquerque area. Representatives from several Pueblo nations were also on hand, as was Robert Queen, Director of the U.S. Commercial Service’s Santa Fe office.
In his remarks, Queen, who provides export guidance and support to New Mexico businesses, spoke about the importance of organizations like AIANTA in reaching several audiences and tribes across the nation.
“Most of the projects we work on in the U.S. are manufacturing based,” he said. “Companies manufacture a product, put it in a package, and ship it across the world. But tourism is also an export. It might now show up in the stats, but we know that someone from Germany or a family from Japan come to the U.S., they rent a car, check into a hotel, go to dinner, go to an event and they spend an enormous amount of money. And that’s why we love organizations like AIANTA. We are able to connect with AIANTA directly and work with them on trade shows and at the same time, reach foreign customers. For us, it’s a great partnership.”
In fact, tourism within the Native American community continues to rise. According to the Department of Commerce, in 2014, America had 35 million visitors to its shores, including a record 1.65 million to Native American communities. Those visitors and tourists also spent approximately $7 billion, infusing increased revenues into unique locations like these communities.
And the future projections aren’t expected to change, with a forecasted 30 percent increase in overseas visitors to tribal lands, with visitors spending an approximate $9.5 billion annually. .
Speaking on behalf of Sen. Udall was Joshua Sanchez, a field representative for the senator’s office. While the senator could not be in attendance, Sanchez relayed Sen. Udall’s continued commitment to organizations like AIANTA that are helping to increase awareness of Native American culture to international visitors.
Sherry Rupert, President of the Board of Directors for AIANTA, said the organization takes pride in their international outreach efforts that create opportunities for America’s tribes.
“Overseas travelers are visiting ‘Indian Country’ more than ever before, and international travelers are looking for both something unique and an experience,” she said. “Travelers visiting our tribes have increased dramatically, growing more than 50 percent from 1 million in 2007 to 2014. These are the travelers all of the tourism industry is trying to grab to bring to their destinations. It’s a great opportunity for Indiana Country. AIANTA continues to work to capitalize on this opportunity to set up tribes to compete in the international market. Even though we’ve been here for thousands of years, we are the new and unique experience these visitors are looking for.”
To learn more about the U.S. Commercial Service in New Mexico, visit http://www.export.gov.