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Senate Passes Schatz-Thune Legislation To Improve And Grow Tourism In Native Communities

NATIVE Act Will Empower Native Communities & Expand Cultural Tourism Opportunities

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), co-chair of the Senate Tourism Caucus, and John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.  The bipartisan NATIVE Act will enhance and integrate native tourism, empower native communities, and expand unique cultural tourism opportunities in the United States.  

“I authored this bill because our country’s native communities are unique and have histories and cultures that can only be shared in America,” 
said Senator Schatz.  “In our state, we are proud that the Native Hawaiian contribution is foundational to who we are as a place and a people.  Every visitor should know that.”

“South Dakota is rich in the culture and traditions of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations,” said Senator Thune. “We should do all we can to help celebrate and recognize the numerous and oftentimes invaluable contributions our tribal communities provide to our state. I want to thank Sen. Schatz for his work on this bill that will help integrate tribally driven tourism plans into the existing federal tourism effort, which will help draw more visitors to the Great Plains and continue to empower our tribal citizens and communities.”

The NATIVE Act will require federal agencies with tourism assets and responsibilities to include tribes and native organizations in national tourism efforts and strategic planning.  It would also provide Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native and American Indian communities with access to resources and technical assistance needed to build sustainable recreational and cultural travel and tourism infrastructure and capacity; spur economic development, and create good jobs.  

U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) are cosponsors of the NATIVE Act.

“Travel and tourism provide massive benefit for communities in every corner of the country, and in many communities those benefits are driven by visitation to Native American lands and cultural attractions,” said Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.  “The NATIVE Act expands opportunities to promote tourism to these lands. International travelers to Indian Country often have a greater impact on the local economy than other visitors—staying longer, visiting more states and regions and spending more on travel service—and the NATIVE Act will harness that effect for these communities.”

The NATIVE Act is supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders including the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homeland Assembly, U.S. Travel Association, American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association, Southeast Tourism Society, Western States Tourism Policy Council, National Congress of American Indians, Alaska Federation of Natives, and the Native Enterprise Initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In September, U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.