Schatz-Thune Bill to Improve and Grow Tourism in Native Communities Heads to the President’s Desk

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressSchatz-Thune Bill to Improve and Grow Tourism in Native Communities Heads to the President’s Desk

Bipartisan NATIVE Act Passes House, Set to Become Law 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) that will enhance and integrate native tourism, empower native communities, and expand unique cultural tourism opportunities in the United States. The bill, which passed in the Senate in April, now heads to the president for his signature.

“I’m glad the NATIVE Act received the same broad bipartisan support this week in the House as it did earlier this year in the Senate,” said Thune. “This is a good, common-sense bill that will have a real impact in tribal communities throughout the country, including the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations in South Dakota. I want to thank Sen. Schatz for his strong partnership in helping get this legislation to the president’s desk for his signature.”  

“This bill will empower native communities to tell their own stories and build their own economic opportunities. For too long, tourism has focused on so-called major destinations and while that’s important, we have the opportunity to support cultural revitalization and economic renewal through the passage of this bill,” said Schatz. “Visitors are increasingly seeking out a more authentic and historically rich travel experience, and there is nothing more authentic and unique than the cultural tourism experience our native communities provide.” 

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 will 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. Sens. 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.

“The NATIVE Act is a strong piece of legislation that will drive economic growth not only in areas that house Native lands and cultural attractions, but also for communities in every corner of the country,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. “We are pleased to see our lawmakers prioritize a measure that expands travel and tourism promotion opportunities for these lands—particularly allowing them to attract more international visitors, whose trips often have a tremendous positive ripple effect on the surrounding local economy. We applaud the House for advancing this bill, and thank Sen. Schatz for his leadership on the NATIVE Act, along with his consistent dedication to facilitating travel across the United States.”

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. 

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) led companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

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