ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Its captivating vistas and glaciers, wildlife and unique history are part of what makes Alaska a global tourist destination.
But tourist demands for more “real Alaskan” experiences have fueled the growth of a new movement — cultural tourism — and a new travel guide insert has been created to meet that need.
President and CEO of the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage and board member of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, Emily Edenshaw explained how improvements were possible to meet tourist demand for information about Alaska Native cultures.
Edenshaw, who is Tlingit and Haida, explained how a new travel guide insert will help give tourists the “real Alaska” experience they crave, in an authentic and respectful way.
Alaska Natives controlling their own narrative in the context of tourism is part of a larger attempt to incorporate Native perspectives into tourism, and broader efforts by Native groups to sustainably maintain cultural accuracy.
A contingent of native creators and artists from the state of Alaska joined the project. This reflects how, in Alaskan history, Native people did not sit on the periphery, but actually played a central role in the development of the land. It’s also more in keeping with the Alaska of today and tomorrow, says Mary Goddard, contributor to the project and owner of production company Midnight Run LLC.
“Regenerative tourism is about being a steward of the land, being a steward of all that has been given to you,” Goddard said. “And so looking at Alaska Native values really supports regenerative tourism efforts.”
Sarah Leonard, president and CEO of the Alaska Trade Industry Association, explained how that organization allocated some of the money for the project from pandemic-related economic development funds. The economic benefits of the new guide are obvious, given the status of tourism as a major industry in the state. But there is also an emotional significance that is difficult to quantify.
In less than 20 pages, the short guide offers an overview of Alaska’s native cultures, languages and societies – from the World Eskimo Olympics in Fairbanks to the Cama-i Dance Festival in Bethel.
With the help of this new travel guide, cultural tourism will help cement Alaska’s native population in a larger context, highlighting the rich complexity of their cultures alongside elements of Alaskan history. Alaska that visitors can already easily access.
Copyright 2022 KTUU. All rights reserved.