Donovan Hanley, director of sales for Navajo Nation Hospitality Enterprises, said tourism trade shows are essential to attracting visitors to Indian Country. Hanley said it sometimes takes two or three years to see a return on the investment, but the exposure always pays off.

Indian Country Markets Tourism at World’s Largest Show

Valerie Taliman
3/12/12

At the largest travel show in the world, ITB Berlin 2012, thousands of people came to the Discover America Pavilion to “see the Indians” and learn more about Native cultures in the United States.

“The most surprising question for me was: Do Indians still exist?” said Kody Bedoni, a Navajo graphic arts student whose family owns and operates Monument Valley Tours on the Utah/Arizona border portion of the Navajo Nation.

“There’s a lot of curiosity about how Native Americans live today because many German people grew up reading and learning about us.  But they tend to see us in the past from books and movies,” he said. “When they see us here, it shows them our cultures are alive and still strong.”

Kody and Kristy Bedoni have been traveling with their parents since early childhood to promote their business, Monument Valley Tours, based on the Navajo Nation near the Arizona and Utah border.  Both plan to be active in the family business which started with one truck and now boasts a tour fleet of more than 30 vehicles.

Kody, 21, and his sister, Kristy, 20, have been traveling with their parents, Virgil and Rosie Bedoni, since they were small children, taking their dancing skills and knowledge of Dine’ culture on the road to promote their international tourism business.  Both are fluent Navajo speakers and engaged the crowds enthusiastically as they promoted Native tourism.

For the third year in a row, tribes and individuals that own tourism destinations sent representatives to the largest travel marketplace in the world from March 7-11 under the sponsorship of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA.)

The unified Discover Native America Trade Show booth maximized exposure for Native American tourism destinations and businesses. The ITB 2012 Discover Native America booth included Tulalip Tribes Resort representing the Pacific Northwest, Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipe Keepers from the Northern Plains, Navajo Nation Hospitality Enterprises, Monument Valley Tours, and Simpson’s Trailhandlers Tours, all representing the Southwest Region.  Representatives from AIANTA, Indian Country Today Media Network, and FNX: First Nations Experience Television were also part of the delegation.

“This is the third year we are participating to give tribes an opportunity to market to international visitors and we’ve had an outstanding turnout,” said Staci Eagle Elk, pubic affairs director for AIANTA.  “We generate high interest from international tour operators and travel agents by showcasing Native American culture under one banner.  ITB Berlin is a driving force in the international travel industry, generating exhibitor sales of about $6 billion Euros and an exhibitor satisfaction rate of 92 percent.”

Staci Eagle Elk of AIANTA explains the location of Native tourism destinations to representatives of Austrian media in one of several dozen meetings held at ITB Berlin to promote tribal tourism.  Donovan Hanley from Navajo Nation Hospitality Enterprises, Teresa Meece of Tulalip Tribes Resort and Harold Simpson of Simpson Trailhandlers also promoted their businesses.

ITB showcases tourism products and destinations to tour organizers and potential visitors from all over Europe.  In 2011, ITB attracted more than 111,000 trade professionals during the week and drew more than 169,000 travel consumers over the weekend, a total of 280,000 visitors.

“This travel show is a catalyst for European travel to the United States,” said Leslie Kedelty, AIANTA executive director.  “Europeans, especially Germans, prefer U.S. tour packages that include eco-friendly outdoor adventures and Native American cultural experiences.  We’re here to make sure they know what Native America has to offer.”

The Discover Native America booth, which won an award for design in 2011, is located in the Discover America Pavilion.  The booth features display space, meeting areas, large panel television and a stage to showcase Native American culture and demonstrations such live dancing, musical performances and storytelling. This attracts international TV channels, radio stations, magazines, and newspapers.

In addition to international news agencies, more than 8,000 journalists from 90 countries attend ITB annually.

For more on AIANTA, go to www.aianta.org

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sroetman's picture
sroetman
Submitted by sroetman on
This is great! I remember when I was in undergrad -- I went to a very large public university and many students were international -- I got the "I didn't know Indians still existed" allllll the time. It's important to remind the entire world that we are still here and thriving!
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