Forming a Tourism Committee

How to create a highly valuable tool for not only marketing and outreach, but also policy and content

Committees are commonly used across the hospitality industry, relying upon experienced volunteers to help govern and advise on a variety of topics. // American Indian Tourism Conference

When it comes to tourism planning, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa lets the community do the talking.

The Tribe’s tourism team, which is not an official Tribal department, but rather a volunteer group of Tribal members, is led by Tribal Vice Chairman Nathan Gordon. The committee brings together representatives from various Tribal departments and programs, including Legendary Waters Resort & Casino, Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Red Cliff Fish Company, Tribal Marketing and Communications, Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Mino Bimaadiziiwin Gitigaanin Tribal Farm, the Economic Development and Recovery Coordinator, the Red Cliff Business Board, and more. Outside organizations, such as Native American Tourism of Wisconsin (NATOW), are also invited to attend.

Gordon realized that tourism affects every Tribal department, so he wanted to bring together a diverse group of people to input ideas on how to carefully and sustainably develop tourism. The committee, which meets monthly, discusses ongoing and future tourism offerings.

Committees are commonly used across the hospitality industry, relying upon experienced volunteers to help govern and advise on a variety of topics. Visit California, which oversees one of the largest state tourism budgets in the country, seeks input through 14 public committees, ranging from the California Welcome Center Committee to the Snow Committee to the Rural Committee.

While committees can be used to advise on marketing and outreach efforts, they are also a highly valuable tool when it comes to setting policies around cultural perpetuation. The Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is governed by two committees, the Museum Advisory Committee (MAC), which reviews the content and verbiage of public displays, and the NAGPRA Committee, which handles the acquisition of new items for the permanent collection as they pertain to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

While museum staffers also offer curatorial expertise, the advisory committees ensure that the perspectives of multiple Seminole citizens and multiple clans are represented throughout the facility’s displays. As in the case of Red Cliff, Tribes can layer or broaden their approach to tourism by inviting outside or neighboring organizations to participate on their hospitality committees. Inviting outside partners to join select committees, especially those in the area of marketing, can help extend the Tribe’s tourism marketing message.

Whether a Tribe is just starting out or is an experienced industry partner, below is a list of possible committees or agenda items to aid in tourism planning.

Tourism Content & Policy

  • Protecting content, culture, and traditional knowledge
  • Governing sacred spaces
  • Cultural center and museum content and programming
  • Historic interpretation/preservation
  • Crisis planning

Marketing & Outreach

  • Domestic marketing
  • International marketing
  • Group travel and motor coach marketing
  • Digital marketing and social media policy
  • Website development
  • Media relations outreach

Small Business Development

  • Artisan promotion
  • Restaurant/culinary development
  • Tour guide, tour program training and creation
  • Cultural and sporting activities

Events & Planning

  • Annual conferences
  • Annual festivals and events
  • Attracting groups, conferences and meetings
  • Committee governance, minutes and planning
  • Hotel planning and needs

Finances & Budget

  • Finance committee
  • Fundraising and grants planning

Human Resources & Personnel

  • Personnel and volunteer hiring policies
  • Cultural training and awareness
  • Nominating committee

Partner Outreach

  • National, regional, state and local parks
  • Scenic byways
  • Area hotels, restaurants, universities, libraries
  • State tourism organization, convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce
  • Local and regional tourism committees and alliances
  • Public programs
  • Legislative outreach

Originally published in Cultural Heritage Tourism: A Planner for Indigenous Tourism Professionals, produced by the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association.