Last week in downtown Palm Springs, Visit California unveiled a massive new cultural heritage initiative, Visit Native California, in partnership with the state’s vast network of tribal communities. California is home to the largest Native American population in the nation and Visit Native California hopes to connect travelers to the state’s rich Indigenous cultures.
The venue was the soon-to-open Agua Caliente Cultural Center to showcase the history and culture of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The new facility will be home to a museum, gardens, and the “Spa at Séc-he,” where visitors can enjoy such therapeutic massages and halotherapy treatments. The Agua Caliente people, which number about 500 today, have lived in the Palm Springs region for thousands of years.
A first-ever dedicated content platform will showcase and celebrate native cultures, including the Golden State’s festivals, crafts, cultural centers, trails, markets, performances, walking tours, and more, funded by a $1 million grant from the American Rescue Plan Act. The initiative’s initial rollout is set for March 2023.
Visit California has been in contact with more than a dozen of California’s 109 federally recognized tribes representing about 720,000 residents that call California home.
Speaking at the program launch, Visit California President & CEO Caroline Beteta, said, “What a gift… We are excited to share this with the world. We wouldn’t be here without the strong vision of the Agua Caliente tribal leadership and all of our California tribes that are here today as well as the ones we are working with both physically and in spirit. This incredible coalition has built the foundation for Visit Native California. We have representatives from across the state that are in dialogues to launch this incredibly exciting initiative.”
Sherry Rupert, CEO of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association—the only national association dedicated to indigenous tourism—pointed out that one in four American Indian Alaska Native and and Native Hawaiian-owned businesses are in the hospitality industry. AIANTA will hold the 24th Annual American Indian Tourism Conference on October 24-27, 2022 and with Brand USA, will host a pre-conference fam trip for Italian tour operators and media. The association will also hire a cultural tourism navigator to assist with the sustainability of the newly launched initiatives.