The Italians are coming.
That was the message delivered by the Sitka Tribe’s Camille Ferguson last week (7-24-19) to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce.
Ferguson has returned to the community after having spent the last six years working for the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association. She’s now the director of Economic Development for the Tribe, and the head of Sitka Tribal Enterprises.
During her tenure working on the national level on behalf of the tribal visitor industry, Ferguson helped organize “familiarization” tours for Italian media and tour operators of the Southwest, the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest.
The so-called “Fam” tours were a partnership between the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, and Brand USA, the largest marketer of US tourism overseas.
Ferguson told the Sitka Chamber about her swan song in that job.
“And before I left, guess where I plugged in? Alaska,” Ferguson said. “I just met with Zak Kirkpatrick (marketing director) from Allen Marine, because next year Brand USA is going to come to Southeast Alaska.”
Ferguson said that a large part of her previous work was “exposing Indian Country to the world.” She attended trade shows in London and Berlin and Las Vegas. The Berlin show was attended by over 100,000 industry professionals, who entered each day walking past replicas of Sitka’s Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi house posts.
Ferguson said Alaska’s rustic authenticity appealed to foreign travelers.
“These people are coming here,” she said. “And they are visiting the United States. The Italian market especially is fond of Native tribes and cultures. That’s because they’ve already been to New York. They’ve already been to Miami Beach. And they want to see real, traditional Americans, and experience the locals. They want to feel what it’s like in rural America.”
Ferguson spent 15 years in Sitka prior to taking her job with the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association — much of it working in the visitor industry. In her new post as the Tribe’s director of economic development, Ferguson will manage Tribal Tours, the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House, and the Tribal Tannery. She also runs the Tribe’s gaming operations, including Bingo and a new pull-tab parlor which will open on Katlian Street, in the former location of Seaside Barber Shop.