Explore America Act, legislation that supports the expansion of cultural heritage tourism by strengthening the Preserve America Grant Program was introduced by Today, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) reintroduced th. 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.
“This bill is about returning control to the people who live in the places everyone else wants to visit,” said Senator Schatz. “It gives local communities the chance to see more benefits from tourism, including better jobs, and it puts the story of Hawai‘i in the hands of our own residents. With this bill, we can strengthen what Hawai‘i has to offer, and make sure local people benefit along the way.”
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“Louisiana communities 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 increases the positive impact tourism has on local economies and improves the experiences of millions of families who visit national parks each year.”
“Cultural heritage tourism provides an authentic view into the diversity of communities that have contributed to the American story and provides a gateway for the public to learn about and enjoy the various cultural histories of these communities,” 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.
The Explore America Act would amend the Preserve America Grant Program to:
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- 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 and local jobs,” said Monica Smith, President and CEO of Southeast Tourism Society. “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 unique stories of these communities.”
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