Byline: Morgan Taylor/Multimedia Producer
OKMULGEE, Okla. – The Muscogee (Creek) Nation was awarded $149,423 from the U.S. Department of Interior Tribal Tourism Grant Program made possible by the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act, funding more than $3 million to 30 tribes.
The funds will be used to evaluate the project and market opportunities in tourism on the reservation. This includes international tourism, bus tours, website development, unifying tourism with gaming initiatives, creating more cohesive gift shops, and participation in the Route 66: Road Ahead Initiative.
MCN Director of Marketing and Tourism Ryan Logan claims the grant timeline allows for the funding to be expended during the calendar year.
Partnerships with the state of Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and other tribes are creating marketing advancements to attract tourism dollars, however there hasn’t been much exploration on the tourism side of things according to Logan.
“This will allow a more strategic plan to where we can work with an outside vendor to help define these things,” he said. “This allows us to pinpoint one specific area we want to grow and implement that strategic plan.”
For future tourism opportunities, the website development is a priority to Logan. It will also allow his department to staff adequately.
“Tapping into this funding that will allow us to expedite this, we will be well suited,” he said.
Stepping into the director position in January, Logan has been able to see the full scale potential to increase revenue with cultural tourism.
“Tourism is the third leading industry in Oklahoma,” he said.
According to Logan, the average trip of an out of state visitor is anywhere from 14-21 days. Collecting data by zip code, it was determined that many come internationally with high numbers from Germany and France.
The Muscogee Reservation has a diverse environment where a visitor can enjoy a metropolitan area or the rural country. However, Logan said there are just not enough attractions, especially in those desolate areas to keep visitors entertained for the average stay.
The Route 66 centennial is coming up, which is in conjunction with the iniatative. The old route will potentially be used as a market profile within the reservation area. It will base operational decisions on the fact that the largest stretch of the highway runs through Oklahoma.
Logan claims the nation is establishing its presence in the Tulsa area by implementing visual aspects like murals, statues, and signage to show Muscogee representation to tourists.
“It puts us being truly authentic and taking ownership of the place we created,” Logan said.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Brian Schatz and Vice Chair Lisa Murkowski authored the act.
“This new funding will further empower Native communities across the country to expand unique cultural tourism opportunities and share their own stories, cultures, and traditions with visitors,” said Chairman Schatz.
According to Senator Murkowski, tribal tourism grants empower tribes to expand opportunities to learn about Native peoples and cultures, create jobs, and increase revenues for vital services in their communities.
“My friend, Chairman Schatz, and I have been co-leading efforts to direct the federal government to fully implement the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act – the NATIVE Act – which established the Tribal Tourism Grant Program in 2016,” said Vice Chair Murkowski. “And we continue to advocate for our bill that amends the NATIVE Act to further promote Native-run tourism across the country.”
The grant project is in its beginning stage. Once the department receives the funds, Logan plans to hire new staff and start outlining priority investments.
This is a developing story.