Community-centred supply chains and sustainable archaeological tourism

Peter G. Gould University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology & Penn Cultural Heritage Center,
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The concept of a ‘supply-chain’—a network of manufacturing and service organizations that collaborate to produce and deliver goods and services to the market—is ubiquitous in the world of business but only recently has entered the discourse in archaeology and cultural heritage management. This paper explores the usefulness of the supply-chain paradigm for understanding the dynamics of tourism based on archaeology and heritage, and particularly explores how tourism supply chains that are centered on local communities and their interests can advance sustainable tourism based on heritage resources. The paper considers both theoretical contributions from political science and business and the lessons from case studies of heritage-based community tourism projects situated across a range of cultural and economic contexts. It concludes that community-centered tourism supply chains, supported but not directed by archaeologists, heritage experts, NGOs, private companies, financial institutions and government bodies, can lead to projects that are economically self-sustaining and contribute to community cohesion.

Gould, P.G. 2018. Community-centred supply chains and sustainable archaeological tourism. Archeostorie. Journal of Public Archaeology. 2: pp. 61-74.

CC BY 4.0 © The author(s). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Origin of the discourse

The phrase ‘Sustainable Archaeological Tourism’ begs the question, what are we sustaining, the archaeology or the tourism? Some archaeologists protest the irreversible damage of mass tourism to iconic sites (Comer & Willems 2011)
, while others see archaeological tourism as an essential driver of economic development
(ICOMOS 2011). Redclift
(2005) has questioned whether the phrase, sustainable tourism, itself is an oxymoron. The question at the heart of this journal’s special issue is whether it is possible to imagine a tourism industry built on archaeological resources, encumbered as they are with so many contentious issues, that is sustainable in every sense of the words. This contribution considers the matter from a systematic, indeed an industrial, point of view. It does so while holding fast to the particular ethical and practical concerns of archaeologists, who find themselves working hand in glove with, and even become dependent upon (Castañeda & Mathews 2013), both the tourism industry and the local communities in which they work.

The concept of sustainability is rooted, of course, in the global environmental movement. It is closely tied to the iconic statement of the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission, which defined economic growth to be sustainable if it “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987, par 27). Concern about the sustainability of the earth’s resources in the face of ‘progress’ can be traced back to antiquity (Du Pisani 2006), but the present preoccupation with sustainability arose in the neo-Malthusian ‘limits to growth’ era of the 1970s (Kanninen 2013). Cultural heritage in general, and archaeological sites and landscapes in particular, entered the sustainability discourse because they are uniquely ‘multi-purpose’ resources (Millar 1989, p. 12). Archaeological and heritage resources serve the interests of community identity, cohesion, and education; but they also are economic resources that attract money- wielding tourists to rural and underdeveloped areas and underwrite the regeneration of urban areas. In this way, archaeology and the tourism it produces are critical resources to people, and both, like the natural resources that spawned the environmental movement, are vulnerable to overuse and abuse that ultimately diminishes their value for future generations.

What are we sustaining?

By the early 2000s, sustainability came to be defined along three distinct dimensions, often called pillars: Sustaining the environmental resource in the face of unregulated economic growth, sustaining economic life in the face of diminishing resource endowments and global competition, and sustaining social structures in the face of rapid environmental and economic change. All three pillars—environmental, economic, and social—play critical roles in the discourse over sustainable archaeological tourism. Sustaining the archaeological resource itself is an intrinsic value to most archaeologists and heritage practitioners. Concern that ‘irreversible’ tourism trends will lead to “negative, despoiling or destructive effects” on monuments and sites motivated ICOMOS (1976) to publish its first Tourism Charter. Those fears have not abated in the face of the explosive growth in heritage tourism in the subsequent four decades (see Walker & Carr 2013). Cleere (2012, viii) has decried the fact that “the impact of rapidly growing tourist numbers on archaeological sites and monuments of all kinds, many of which are fragile and vulnerable, is often shockingly visible.” Furthermore, heritage tourism presents technical challenges to the presentation and preservation of the sites themselves, and, because it is essentially a commercial activity, routinely clashes with the ideals of archaeologists and heritage professionals, who tend to be intrinsically averse to collaboration with capitalism (Graham, Ashworth & Tunbridge 2000). Sustainable preservation of sites is the primary priority of professionals in the field; tourism seems often to be at odds with that objective.

The economic role of archaeological tourism

has an instrumental value to the communities and nations in which it occurs. Governments around the world urgently seek to develop any resources that have potential to increase the economic welfare of their citizens. ICOMOS (2011) has singled out cultural heritage as a driver of economic development, and a host of publications from the World Bank and its affiliated agencies have emphasized the critical role to be played by cultural heritage resources in economic development (Duer 1999; Wolfensohn et al. 2000; Sierra 2009; Bigio & Licciardi 2010). As an essential generator of economic activity in less industrialized countries, tourism has become heavily implicated in the sustainability discourse around economic development (Mowforth & Munt 2009).

Even developed nations have come to see heritage tourism as a critical economic activity. Britain’s Heritage Lottery Fund now sponsors  periodic studies demonstrating the heritage tourism industry’s important contributions to the economy of the United Kingdom (Oxford Economics 2013, 2016), while the European Community is producing reports seeking to demonstrate that ‘Cultural Heritage Counts’ in Europe’s economic vitality (CHCfE 2015). In recent years, concerns for the sustainability of environmental resources, including archaeology, have converged with the discourse over sustaining tourism’s economic contribution as a result of the threats to cultural heritage sites and associated tourist economies from global climate change (Barthel-Bouchier 2013; Markham, Lafrenz Samuels & Caldas 2016). Cultural economists suggest that cultural resources are a form of social capital (Throsby 2002), capable of delivering a stream of valuable ‘services,’ that will depreciate over time unless they are consciously maintained. In other words, sustaining archaeology’s economic value implies sustaining the archaeological resource. The role of the third pillar of sustainability, the social dimension, is perhaps less obvious. Archaeologists and development experts typically hope that local communities will be the primary beneficiaries of economic activity resulting from tourism. Local populations may have close personal ties to their heritage, as is the case with indigenous communities in much of the world or in parts of Europe, such as the UK, where interest in the nation’s past is widespread among the population. For these people, the sites tourists visit may be important religious, historic or cultural venues at the core of their identities, linking the intrinsic and instrumental values of the heritage resource. Frequently, however, historic places that are significant to the tourist trade are untethered from contemporary residents and their religious affiliations or cultural identification. In those cases, local community members act as the hosts to tourists visiting heritage resources to which their own personal attachment is limited. For those communities, the intrinsic value of sites —the tourism value—may be their only source of value to local residents. Thus, whatever the community’s attachment to its heritage resources, sustaining the values to communities of archaeological sites and historic places depends heavily on sustaining the tourism value of that heritage. The three pillars of sustainability are deeply intertwined. Sustaining archaeological, economic and community value through tourism is challenging due to the extreme vulnerability of heritage resources to the vicissitudes of the tourist economy. Tourism venues are subject to competition from a global industry led by market demand. The attractiveness of heritage destinations can be undermined by political upheaval or ineffective national policies (Timothy & Nyaupane 2009, pp. 20-56), as Egypt’s tourism collapse in the wake of the Arab Spring demonstrated (WTTC 2017). An influx of tourists can sour local residents on their visitors and make them indifferent if not hostile hosts (Doxey 1975, 1976; McKercher & du Cros 2002, pp. 15-21). Sites can become ‘old hat’ and abandoned by tourists whose attention is diverted to safer, newer or more exotic locales (R. W. Butler 1980, 2009). Furthermore, the benefits of tourism that may accrue initially to local residents can be siphoned away from politically weak communities by far-away elites and international corporations with far better access to political and financial resources (Joppe 1996; Adams 2010). Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to policies that establish antiseptic tourist reserves that exclude local communities physically and economically from sites and their anticipated benefits (Meskell 2012; Su, Wall & Xu 2016; Hassan 2017). The politicized process for establishing world heritage sites (Meskell et al. 2015; Bertacchini et al. 2016), can create competing locations promoting World Heritage branding, and competition from local development priorities can place World Heritage sites on UNESCO’s endangered list (Labadi 2017), and even lead to revocation of the brand, as occurred in Dresden. In other words, sustaining any value from heritage tourism—let alone value that is sustainable on all three dimensions—is a devilishly complicated business in today’s globalized, consumer-driven tourist economy. The remainder of this article will argue that archaeology needs to shift away from traditional perspectives on sustainable tourism to adopt two distinct and, for archaeology, novel lenses through which to view tourism issues. The first lens is to adopt an industrial perspective on the archaeological tourism business, the supply chain, which enables analysis of the issues associated with the interconnected constituencies involved in heritage tourism. Industrial supply chains are systems of direct and the indirect parties that collaborate to deliver a particular product, service or experience to a consumer (Chopra & Meindl 2016, p. 13). For example, raw material suppliers serve manufacturers who, in turn, utilize wholesale and retail distributors to deliver products to consumers. The second lens is to recognize that local community empowerment reinforces the social as well as the economic dimensions of sustainability, and to argue that government laws and agencies, financial institutions, and local organizations should adopt, legitimize and support a community-centric approach to developing and managing the heritage tourism supply chain.

Diversity and Collaboration in Communities

What does this change in lenses imply? There is a temptation to focus the discourse in archaeological and heritage tourism on the site itself. After all, the place—whether it be a monument, landscape, museum, or cultural event—is the essential attraction. Presenting an archaeological site and its story in a compelling fashion, with clarity, integrity and sustainable community benefits, is essential to effective tourist development. Such ‘placemaking’ (Fleming 2007; Markusen & Gadwa 2010) has long been a concern of specialists in urban design and has emerged in the lexicon of archaeologists (Hodges 2017). Preserving sites and intangible heritage for future generations of consumers and scholars seems an obligation embedded in the field. Protecting the place from the debasement of commercialization or the ravages of rampant tourism seems an ethical precept. Yet focusing on the place misses a larger, more important context critical to sustaining archaeological, economic, and social values—the communities in which they are sustainable.

Consider the stakeholders in heritage tourism. Local communities are likely to be diverse and disputatious. Community members who have differing affiliations  with  and  affection  for  a place will seek conflicting benefits from it (Dredge 2006). Cultural tourists also have diverse motivations, and the mix of cultural resources involved in archaeological tourism—landscapes, sites, museums, cultural performances, and much more—itself is highly varied (Timothy 2011, pp. 15-82). In the case of built heritage, both local and national government agencies typically are engaged as owners or regulators, injecting political considerations into the place. For sites deemed significant, the process also involves international governmental organizations (IGOs), such as UNESCO or its affiliates, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused on development, such as the Global Heritage Fund or the Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI). Local businesses that deliver tourists to locales, offer lodging and food services, sell souvenirs, and provide services to other business providers, have material stakes in the heritage tourism product, as do multinationals such as airlines or hotel chains. Because archaeological and heritage sites require expert technical and operational support, archaeologists and heritage professionals are substantial stakeholders in the tourism enterprise. Finally, since all of this requires enormous financial resources, heritage site placemaking requires commitment by local entrepreneurs, commercial banks, venture capitalists, and national government heritage agencies and, in the case of the largest projects, IGOs such as the World Bank.

Archaeological tourism, in other words, is an intensely integrated enterprise in which stakeholders have diverging interests and conflict among them is highly likely. Contention can arise among archaeologists and curators, tour operators and travel companies, guides, hotels and restaurants, government and NGO officials, financial backers, and community groups. Sustained collaboration among such a complex array of technical, managerial, political, economic, marketing, and community interests is at the heart of sustainable archaeological tourism as an economic activity, which in turn is at the heart of its sustainability as a community resource. Whether in a mature or emerging economy, and regardless of social or political conditions on the ground, the pre-requisite for successful, sustainable  collaboration  is a functioning system of resources—human, financial, material, and organizational—capable of overcoming differences and delivering an experience that is competitive on the national or international tourism market.

This is neither a new nor a unique problem, and many tourism scholars have studied mechanisms for addressing conflicts and encouraging collaboration and collective efforts. One widely recognized solution is the establishment of formal networks that engage participants in the local tourism industry through institutions that facilitate sharing of information, costs and risks (Moulin & Boniface 2001; Morrison, Lynch & Johns 2004; Novelli, Schmitz & Spencer 2006; Scott, Cooper & Baggio 2008; Beaumont & Dredge 2010; Erkuş-Öztürk & Eraydın 2010; Zach & Racherla 2011). There are many forms for these structures, from informal community gatherings to formal Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) that may be created by government agencies to coordinate activities by private and public actors to promote tourism and deliver a quality product in a locale.

Very often, as Gould & Paterlini (2017) illustrate with regard to the park system created in the Val di Cornia in Tuscany, tourist networks leverage a cluster of complementary nearby destinations (Porter 1998). Through a DMO or other communications network, the firms and individual community members who are part of a cluster both compete and cooperate in ways that enable tourism businesses to spread the cost of investments and marketing, build large pools of skilled labour, and create a market sufficiently large to encourage entrepreneurs to invest and tour operators to add cluster destinations to their standard itineraries. Clusters of heritage tourism attractions provide a reason for visitors to make a long and expensive trip and to stay locally for extended periods while taking in the variety of sites (Paterlini 2012). Such clusters have demonstrated success across a broad range of geographies and subject matter (Cunha & Cunha 2005; Jackson & Murphy 2006; Soteriades, Tyrogala & Varvaressos 2009; Alberti & Giusti 2012; Gould & Paterlini 2017). One consequence of a successful, clustered heritage tourist locale, of course, is that the number of stakeholders in the destination and the complexity of their interactions increase still further.

Supply chains in heritage tourism

The question for archaeologists is how to interact with this array of stakeholders and to retain an appropriate voice in heritage tourism decision-making along side representatives from government agencies, tourism businesses, and affected communities. For decades, industrial and distribution organizations have wrestled with a similar problem—how to optimize the myriad suppliers and supporting organizations who make it possible to deliver a particular good or service. The solution in industry is to analyse the problem through the concept of a supply chain. By applying the supply chain concept to archaeological tourism, heritage practitioners can step back from the site itself to acknowledge all of the stakeholders in a tourism venue and establish their roles and responsibilities in making the venue a sustainable success. There is an expanding literature on the role of supply chains in tourism (Font et al. 2008; Schwartz, Tapper & Font 2008; Zhang, Song & Huang 2009; Vignati & Laumans 2010; Zehrer & Raich 2010; Zan & Bonini Baraldi 2013).

In tourism, especially archaeological or heritage tourism, the consumer product is an experience that consists of more than a site or museum and its interpretive devices. A quality visitor experience depends on every aspect of the visit—the travel experience; acceptable accommodations; the quality, safety and ambience of dining establishments (whether five-star or street food); the knowledge and charm of guides and servers; the attitude (welcoming or not) of local businesses and citizens—all delivered to the expectations and price points of different segments of the tourism market. The individuals and organizations involved in these activities constitute the supply chain that delivers an archaeological tourism experience (Figure 1). It is made up of each participant who interacts directly with visitors (e.g., tour organizers, food providers, local sites) and the support organizations (e.g., laundries, food distributors, maintenance companies) that provide expertise, resources, materials or services to those with a direct role in the tourism product. In addition, a range of other entities—such as training organizations, financial institutions, government agencies and archaeologists themselves—play important supporting roles in the tourism destination supply chain.

Figure 1. Elements of the Archaeological Tourism Supply Chain.

Figure 1 highlights the key stakeholders whose performance directly contributes to the visitor experience and are highly incentivized to ensure that sustainability policies are enforced. It also identifies stakeholders who are not on the ‘front line’ serving visitors but instead operate in background support roles providing materials, financing, services, training, or influence. Finally, it highlights dependencies— no stakeholder or subset of stakeholders can deliver a successful tourism experience without the others. The supply chain model highlights potential areas of contention—individuals and organizations with starkly different objectives that may come in conflict, and it identifies stakeholders with complimentary interests or capabilities who may need to collaborate in order to reduce costs, achieve greater productivity, or implement innovative ideas.

The supply chain, in other words, is a highly interconnected mechanism. Greffe (2004) has proposed the ‘ecosystem’ as a metaphor for analysing the interconnections between heritage sites and local communities. Greffe’s analysis focused only on the conditions under which tourism is likely to create jobs and promote economic development; this paper argues that the interconnections in tourism are more numerous and more critical to sustainable outcomes. Greffe’s metaphor of the ecosystem is arguably more appropriate to this broader conception of stakeholder interactions in archaeological tourism management. Merriam Webster (2014, p. 394) has defined an ecosystem as “the complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit.” In the present context, the ecological model underscores the deep interdependency among the parties involved if the touristic system is to survive sustainably. Natural ecosystems co-evolve to achieve sustainability; tourist ecosystems need to be consciously engineered and continuously managed in order to do so. All parties involved—archaeologists, tourism-related businesses, community groups, government agencies—can achieve and sustain their own objectives only through collaborative and mutually reinforcing activities.

In other words, sustaining tourism is not only about sustaining sites. It is about keeping the experience fresh, enticing, and of high quality, while managing to restrain costs in order to sustain competitiveness in a global market. Sustainable tourism requires building awareness in far distant places to attract tourists in large numbers while delivering economic benefit to local communities. Every contributor to the tourist experience has a role to play in delivering sustainability, and each has an obligation to the others to support success on terms that they all accept. Well-conceived and well-executed destination management, cognizant of the interlocking roles and responsibilities implied by the supply chain, can contribute to creating destinations capable of adapting to changing circumstances and promoting sustainable tourism that preserves the archaeological resource.

Community-centred supply chains

What, however, of the social pillar of sustainability -sustaining the community that is home to the tourism site? To achieve that goal, the supply chain itself needs to be centred on the needs and priorities of the local communities involved.

Archaeologists have a distinctive ethical posture regarding which group among the stakeholders in tourism should have primacy in defining the future of archaeological tourism at a particular site. At least rhetorically, priority usually is given to the local community. Indeed, the 1972 UNESCO Convention on World Heritage assigned a central role in the process of archaeological and heritage management to local communities. Article 5 of the convention mandated integration of heritage into the life of the local communities (UNESCO 1972), an obligation reiterated to this day in the Operational Guidelines for World Heritage sites (UNESCO 2016, par. 15) and reinforced in subsequent conventions such as the Budapest Declaration (UNESCO 2002). The most recent Guidelines view the “active participation of the communities and stakeholders” as “necessary conditions to its sustainable protection, conservation, management, and presentation” of World Heritage sites (UNESCO 2016, par. 119). Good intentions do not always translate into positive results, however. Labadi has mined UNESCO’s own of World Heritage site evaluations to document the regular failures of development-based projects to manage tourism in a manner beneficial to local communities (Labadi 2011; Labadi & Gould 2015; Labadi 2017). O’Reilly (2014) documented the frustrations encountered by his NGO, Heritage Watch, in its attempts to bring benefits to communities adjacent to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Disappointment also has been felt by communities in Africa (Little & Borona 2014; Morris 2014) and Latin America (Herrera 2013).

In recent years, archaeologists and heritage managers have come to recognize the central role that effective community involvement can play in sustainable archaeological tourism. The reason is simply that members of local communities are the front line ‘hosts’ to heritage tourists. They may be the owners of the hostels, hotels, restaurants and shops, the guides at archaeological sites, the handicraft producers who add local colour and cherished memorabilia to the tourist experience, the store clerks and restaurant waiters, and the government employees who maintain sites. Together, these individuals create the tourist experience. Tourism disrupts communities, unsettling traditional ways of life and ordinary relationships among community members. Doxey’s (1975, 1976) insight decades ago that local community attitudes are critical to the visitor experience is now an accepted part of the public discourse, as evidenced by recent community protests against tourists in Venice (Giuffrida 2017). Indeed, the obstacles to successful community-visitor interaction and community empowerment are varied and politically charged.

The reality is that communities surrounding heritage sites are politically and economically weak in the face of a global tourism industry dominated by multinational airline, hotel and restaurant chains on the one hand and by local political, business and financial elites on the other. Adams (2010) has described the mechanisms through which business and political elites gradually usurp the benefits of tourism from local community members. Zorn and Farthing (2007) vividly describe how differences in political power affected the Taquile Island community in Lake Titicaca, Peru. Castañeda (2005) documents conflicts that raged over decades between officials of the Chichén Itzá archaeological park in Mexico’s Yucatán and residents of local communities who, excluded from commercial opportunities, have invaded the park on three occasions.

Heritage tourism, at its roots, is an exploration of the unfamiliar by individuals with limited personal connection to the places they visit. This is particularly true when tourists are visiting sites occupied by and valuable to Indigenous peoples. The commodification  of cultural heritage to conform to State narratives of history or to satisfy expectations in a globalized market for ‘authentic’ tourist experiences are justifiably decried as exploitative and neo-colonial, and seen as threatening to truly sustainable heritage (Salazar 2012; Herrera 2014). The complex requirements of the tourist ecosystem render politically and economically disadvantaged communities especially vulnerable to failure and exploitation (Butler & Hinch 2007). In the normal course, the activities of both archaeology and tourism development tend to be driven by experts from the top down, denying agency to communities for whom the heritage is a living reality. For some archaeologists, this has become a question of human rights (Silverman & Ruggles 2007). At the very least, such practices undermine sustainable community support for tourism. The challenge is to identify approaches that place communities at the centre of their tourism development.

Community-centric tourism may take many forms, depending on the scale of the community, the nature of the tourism project, the role of government entities, and the degree of complexity in the financial and operational aspects of the project and in the social and cultural context of the community (Gould 2018). In simple cases, such as small communities with traditional mechanisms to resolve differences and with minimal financial or operational responsibility for the heritage itself, local organizations controlled and managed by community members may be sufficient. Small- scale community projects can resolve internal issues and conduct necessary negotiations with outside elements in the supply chain, such as tour organizers or government officials. Such projects may be facilitated by outsiders but should not be controlled by them (Glover et al. 2012; Leventhal et al. 2014).

As projects become larger and more complex, or as sites rise in prominence domestically or internationally, then the participants in the supply chain from outside the community become more numerous, their financial interests more substantial, and the benefits to be gleaned by crowding out local interests become more tangible. In those situations, preserving the centrality of community interests against the power of outside experts, or government, corporate, and political actors requires that the ecosystem be designed to protect and nourish local involvement and control.

Community primacy requires a strong mandate, through appropriate government entities, granting community organizations a prominent seat at the management table, if not the leading role in directing tourism at the heritage site. Ostrom (1990) has pointed out the critical importance of official support for community-management of collective ventures. Such support needs to include a regulatory oversight process that protects and advances community interests (Sullivan 2003). Government or NGO programs designed to build the capacity of local community members can provide critical skills and resources that enable locals to compete or collaborate with outside business forces. One examples is the set of programs in Belize, administered by a variety of NGOs and government agencies, that provide training in skills such as business management, grant applications, hospitality management (Gould 2014). Another  is  the Namibian Community-based Tourism Association is an NGO that offers broad-based governance, marketing and technical support to communities seeking to leverage their tourism resources into economic development opportunities, while at the same time working with the national government to implement policies that promote community-based tourism (Nicanor 2001).

Community projects of any scale will require support from governments and entities outside of the community. Promotion of tourism, either through subsidies for DMOs and similar local organizations or through national promotional campaigns, is usually a critical role for government in the tourism supply chain. As long as tourism promotion does not favour well-connected actors over local entrepreneurs and residents, promotional efforts also may be essential to generating interest from potential outside participants to join the supply chain. Sites also will require input from experts in venue management, presentation and preservation. Typically, such support will come from government entities, international organizations, or NGOs. Incorporating their expertise into the project without crowding out local voices requires both appropriate governance mechanisms for DMOs and similar organizations, and a strong expectation, reinforced by government regulation, that communities will have leading roles in determining how tourism is developed in their communities. Halstead (2003) has outlined mechanisms for achieving such a confluence of views, based on the experience of five community-based tourism projects in Namibia (see also Newsham 2004).

Finally, there can be no doubt that any archaeological tourism project requires substantial financial investment, which can threaten community primacy. As Klamer (2014, p. 66) has noted, “the mode of financing matters.” Klamer points out that government financing may emphasize preservation and presentation of a site’s cultural values over commercialization of the site to promote tourism, while tourist-oriented development investments can easily crowd out the cultural values of a place. Moreover, financing derived from any large-scale actor—government, commercial bank, or development bank—will tend to favour large-scale businesses over local entrepreneurs. There are two reasons for this: large-scale businesses have the legal and accounting structures that large-scale lenders require, and the small-scale loans sought by local entrepreneurs are inefficient and often money- losing for large financial institutions. Thus, if community-centric tourism is to be promoted, private or public financing vehicles that are chartered, willing, and able to provide capital to local entrepreneurs their communities need to be established. While fledgling NGOs, such as the Sustainable Preservation Initiative, have begun to do this, the scale of financing and skilled personnel available falls far short of the need. Expanding the amount of resource available for this purpose will require organizations such as SPI to generate and promulgate longitudinal data on the success of this approach. Such data is only now becoming available.

At this juncture, it is reasonable to ask whether community-centric tourism development built on sustainable supply chains is plausible in a globalized tourism economy. Certainly, examples abound of situations where the complications of creating such projects overwhelm their sponsors. Equally, though, success stories do exist. Consider, for example, case studies of numerous community tourism operations in Namibia, a nation that has both embraced tourism, promoted the entire supply chain, and sought to build mechanisms that ensure communities remain central to their sustainability and success (Nicanor 2001; Halstead 2003; Murphy & Halstead 2003; Newsham 2004; Brian Jones 2011). The community-created and community-managed site museum at Agua Blanca, Ecuador, is a long-lived example of successful community- driven tourism in South America (McEwen, Silva & Hudson 2006; Hudson, Silva & McEwan 2017). Gould (2018) presents case studies from Peru, Belize, Ireland and Italy that illustrate the potential for communities to benefit from and play a central role in archaeological and heritage tourism. Although the tourism offers and economic benefits vary widely among these projects, each is rooted in local social and political realities, and each has retained control of the tourism business in community hands, established appropriately formalized formal organizational structures, and adopted varying forms of democratic governance mechanism to resolve differences and make decisions (see Gould 2018). Although this is no recitation of a large-scale catalogue of projects that have exploited supply chains in a community- centric fashion, these studies at least provide evidence that the approach is not far-fetched if community, business, and corporate interests are prepared to collaborate creatively.

Approaches to empowering local communities in planning for their surroundings have been a subject of study for some years among urban planners interested in community- centred development and urban placemaking. Practitioners have created ‘handbooks’ and ‘how- to guides’ for community planners (Jones 1990; Sanoff 2000; Wates 2000; Hou & Rios 2003; Cilliers & Timmermans 2014) and for real estate developers (Porter, Phillips & Moore 1985) who are seeking to give priority to community interests in their plans for places. Although primarily an issue in more developed economies, where city planning is well established, the challenge of building sustainable institutions on the basis of bottom-up, community-centred approaches has been tackled around the world, including in emerging economies (Carley, Jenkins & Smith 2001; Friedmann 2010). Without a doubt, specific solutions to empowering communities in one location are not automatically portable to another, and any approach to including community and civil society groups into development processes must accommodate local cultural practice and political sensitivities. But the fact remains that the issues facing archaeologists as they approach sustainable community-based tourism are not only far from unique; they have been tackled by other specialists in similar places for many years.


This paper opened with a question: what are we seeking to sustain in archaeological tourism? The answer here has three elements: sustaining the heritage resource itself into the future; sustaining the economic benefits of tourism; and sustaining communities directly linked to the site, both for their economic well- being and because communities that benefit from heritage sites are more likely to support both preservation and tourism projects. Past practice has fallen short on all fronts, relying too heavily on outside expertise, government control, and untrammelled private sector activity that provided too little benefit  in  too many communities. The result has been tourism that is clearly unsustainable, either economically or archaeologically. This paper has argued that two changes need to occur in the way archaeological tourism is conceptualized if sustainable archaeological tourism is not to be an oxymoron.

The first is for all participants in the system to recognize that they are interlinked through a supply chain that delivers a successful tourism experience, a degree of interdependency that suggests the metaphor of the ecosystem. The second is for all concerned to recognize that tourism is at its core a local experience, and local communities—despite their complexities, inbred contention, and often limited capacity— need to be placed at the centre of the enterprise. Communities cannot do much on their own, and usually can do nothing without outside expertise, capital, and nonintrusive support from government agencies. But unless communities perceive meaningful value from tourism and are engaged in setting the contours of that tourist activity, the long-term sustainability of archaeological tourism projects is highly doubtful.

Archaeologists have three interrelated responsibilities in this process. First, archaeologists should commit to the supply chain paradigm, and thus to the idea that collaboration across all participants in the supply chain is essential to securing an archaeological tourism that is physically, economically and socially sustainable. Second, archaeologists’ ethical focus should place value on heritage preservation and community rights, and commit to ensuring that interactions within the supply chain maintain an unequivocal community-centric perspective, even if that means local communities set the agenda for both research and development (Leventhal et al. 2014). Third, and perhaps a personally uncomfortable undertaking, archaeologists can and should play the catalytic role in bringing the participants in the supply chain together to develop, implement, and manage sustainable, community-centric projects. Unlike other participants,archaeologists have the incentives— their interest in site preservation and in community well-being—and the connections to bring to the table the government, corporate, financial and community interests that must to be aligned for the supply chain to evolve into an interdependent and self-sustaining ecosystem. Examples of such archaeologist-inspired projects exist, such Riccardo Francovich’s creation of the cluster of archaeological sites, natural parks and museums in the Val di Cornia in Italy, but many more opportunities await if archaeologists have the will to work with local communities to create them.

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