The first-ever Indigenous Tourism Forum of the Americas has been rescheduled to take place October 12-16, 2020 as a virtual networking event, organized by the Organization of American States and the George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The historic gathering, which was postponed from its March 2020 date due to COVID-19, will give Indigenous, business, and government leaders a platform to explore the ways in which tourism can drive economic recovery and sustainable development. Participants will meet for five days via Zoom webinar to exchange experiences, share knowledge, re-trace ancient trade networks and re-establish connections.
Prior to the pandemic, tourism was a way for Indigenous communities to generate income, alleviate poverty, increase access to healthcare and education, and conserve cultural and natural resources. In light of the devastating economic and social impact COVID-19 continues to have on Indigenous communities, the Indigenous Tourism Forum of the Americas will serve as an opportunity to examine how tourism can support the economic and social well-being of Indigenous people — both now and in the future.
The five-day forum will feature virtual destination tours, keynotes, workshops and roundtable talks centered on recovery and sustainable development, with an impressive lineup of speakers and moderators discussing pressing present-day issues such as “How Can Tourism Drive Economic Recovery Post-COVID-19,” “How Can Indigenous Communities Create Partnerships and Access Financing,” and “Protection of Intellectual and Cultural Property.”
“The pandemic has exacerbated the many social and economic inequalities that exist for Indigenous people throughout the Americas, but being self-reliant and resourceful in the face of viruses and other threats is by no means a new experience for these communities,” says Seleni Matus, director of the GW International Institute of Tourism Studies. “Especially given the demand for nature and wellness travel, indigenous communities have an opportunity to include tourism in their recovery plans.”
“It’s our hope that the forum will be a starting point for post-pandemic empowerment and ownership, so that indigenous communities in the U.S., Canada and Central and South America can use tourism to create cultural connections, educate the world about their traditions and challenges, and determine their own narratives for the future.”
The Indigenous Tourism Forum of the Americas is supported by advisors such as AIANTA, Conservation International, National Parks Service, USAID, and World Indigenous Tourism Alliance. The event is sponsored by Wind Creek Hospitality, Intrepid Travel, Destinations International and Square.
As a global leader in tourism education and research, the International Institute of Tourism Studies has been guiding businesses, communities, governments and nonprofits toward sustainability for more than thirty years. They advance critical industry issues through thought leadership and research, and provide professional-level certificate programs, courses and workshops in destination management and cultural heritage tourism. The institute works with tribal communities to develop their tourism potential, helping them to take stock of and develop their assets, plan and build their capacity and promote their offerings. Areas of focus include tribal tourism governance, capacity building and product development.