Schatz, Cassidy, Reed Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Boost Cultural Heritage Tourism

WASHINGTON, DC – Today U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and
Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced the Explore America Act, legislation that supports the
expansion of cultural heritage tourism by strengthening the Preserve America Grant
Program. Changes to the program will help attract more visitors to American
landscapes and cultural heritage sites in the National Parks System, enhance
existing programs, and increase collaboration between communities and the federal
government.

«Every year, Hawaii sets new records for tourism growth in our state, but for too
many people, it doesn’t feel like that growth is helping small businesses, families,
and young people who are looking to build a life in Hawaii,» said Senator Schatz.
«This bill is about returning control to the people who live in the places everyone
else wants to visit. It gives local communities the chance to see more benefits from
tourism, including better jobs, and it puts the story of Hawaii in the hands of our
own residents. This is what international visitors and tourists are looking
for-authentic experiences that tell a story and have a history. With this bill, we
can strengthen what Hawaii has to offer, and make sure local people benefit along
the way.»

«Louisiana communities, urban and rural, have rich histories. They should have a
bigger say in how their stories are shared with visitors and tourists,» said Senator
Cassidy. «Reforming the Preserve America Grant Program will improve the experiences
of millions of families who visit national parks each year. This increases the
positive impact this tourism has on local economies.»

«Cultural heritage tourism provides an authentic view into our nation’s past and
allows the public to learn about and enjoy the various cultural histories of gateway
communities across our nation,» said Senator Reed. «This effort will also stimulate
local economies and create jobs in the tourism industry. National Parks and
Heritage Areas are among our nation’s greatest assets, and I am proud to join my
colleagues in this bipartisan effort to help communities display their history and
natural beauty while simultaneously building their economies.»

The Preserve America Program was established by Executive Order in 2003 to support
state, tribal, and local government efforts to preserve and enhance heritage
tourism. The grant component of the Preserve America Program is a matching
partnership between the Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation and the
Department of the Interior that supports heritage tourism at the state and local
levels.

The Explore America Act would amend the Preserve America Grant Program to:

* Provide technical assistance. The bill directs the Departments of Commerce
and Interior, and the Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to provide
technical assistance in lieu of monetary funds.

* Focus on economic growth. It directs the Secretary of Commerce to coordinate
with the Secretary of the Interior and the ACHP to evaluate how the program can
increase job creation, boost economic growth, and promote tourism.

* Increase accountability. It establishes program metrics to measure
effectiveness and report findings to Congress.

* Prioritize community coordination. The bill directs collaboration with
gateway communities (communities adjacent to National Parks) by providing financial
and technical assistance, tourism development and promotion, visitor management
services, and access to federal resources.

«Hundreds of gateway communities across the country rely on the national parks for
their economic vitality,» said Bill Hardman, president and CEO of the Southeast
Tourism Society. «The Southeast Tourism Society enthusiastically endorses the
Explore America Act, which builds on existing parks tourism to encourage
partnerships between the National Park Service and local stakeholders, and empowers
gateway communities to leverage cultural and heritage tourism assets to promote
visitation and to better tell the stories of these communities.»

«Place-based preservation matters,» said Alan Spears, director of cultural resources
at the National Parks Conservation Association. «The Explore America Act provides
the National Park Service with enhanced ability to partner with gateway communities
across the United States to better leverage their local cultural and historic
resources through heritage tourism. The National Parks Conservation Association is
pleased to support this bill that empowers communities to promote pride of place.»

«Protected areas, particularly World Heritage sites and National Parks, are some of
tourism’s biggest attractions, and a key driver of economic activity in surrounding
communities,» said Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International.
«Visitors to U.S. National Parks spent an estimated $18.4 billion in local gateway
regions in 2016, generating thousands of jobs and significant tax revenue for these
communities. Destinations International supports any legislation that helps foster a
better relationship between governments and local stakeholders, empowering them to
share their unique stories with visitors and expand the economic benefits of
tourism.»