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Tribal Tourism Gets New Board President

Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez

In April, the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association (AAITA) announced its newly elected executive board members, which include Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member and Talking Stick Destination Marketing Manager Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez as the new AAITA Board President.

AAITA has been a statewide, nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership organization since 1994. It is overseen by nine volunteer members who work together to increase tourism within the Arizona Indian reservations. Arizona is home to 22 Native American tribes, which the organization primarily focuses on.

The mission of the AAITA is to promote tourism in Arizona Indian Country while respecting the cultural integrity of the tribes it represents.

“When our Community opened Talking Stick Resort, I began to further explore hospitality and its impact on the state, and I quickly realized that our Community, like so many others, was doing some pretty amazing things. It was only going to get bigger and better, and I knew very quickly that I wanted to be a part of it,” said McAnlis-Vasquez.

McAnlis-Vasquez notes that AAITA has several long-term goals, which include restoring the historical Phoenix Indian School dining hall and creating a regularly scheduled, large-scale event presence, such as the Arizona Indian Festival.

“I would like to see us hosting more familiarization (fam) tours in Indian Country and am hoping to create an itinerary that our industry partners can reference and share with visitors to the state in the future, thus increasing awareness of our offerings,” said McAnlis-Vasquez. “We will also be working to enhance our communication efforts, for membership and for visitors to the area, via our website, newsletters and print materials.

“I am in awe of the beauty that we possess; our history, way of life, values and respect for cultural preservation; and the way we share our story so delicately and mindfully—it’s all so inspiring,” she added.

McAnlis-Vasquez joined AAITA three years ago in hopes of learning more about the Arizona Office of Tourism and how tribes are navigating the industry. She realized very quickly that she loved tribal tourism and wanted everyone to know about how amazing tribal tourism is.

“I hope to bring positive energy to the group. I want to be an inspiration for our membership and a vessel for making their ideas a reality,” she said. “I have a passion for who we are and what we stand for and think we have the potential to be a great resource for other organizations within the industry. I am excited for our future. I am excited, but nervous. I love a challenge, but I want to make my Community and Arizona Indian Country proud and have thus put a lot of pressure on myself to make good things happen.”

The new AAITA board officers, aside from McAnlis-Vasquez, are Donovan Hanley (Navajo), vice president; Steve Geiogamah (Kiowa), treasurer; and Amanda June (Navajo-Hopi), secretary.

For more information about the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association, visit www.ArizonaIndianTourism.org.