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Sunday, 31 May 2009

Guarding the Past: An Interview with Ben Thomas and Chris Doyle - Page 3

Written by Ben Keene
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Several years ago Chris Doyle, Vice President of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, contacted the Archaeological Institute of America, North America’s oldest and largest archaeological organization, with the intention of creating some basic guidelines. The impetus for this collaboration was his personal experience with guides who behaved irresponsibly while taking clients on tours. Working closely with Ben Thomas, a Mesoamerican archaeologist and the AIA’s Director of Programs, the two have since developed a manual of good practices for tour operators and the tourists who visit archaeological sites. I caught up with them to learn more about the serious threats to our collective cultural heritage and their project to protect what’s left.

Doyle: In addition, the ATTA will share these guidelines with companies representing the entire adventure travel supply chain in order to ensure a quality of scope and to better understand the realities of implementation. When we get feedback from operators and suppliers operating within archaeologically rich destinations we’ll begin to convey the guidelines throughout a host of channels.


inTravel: Since the guide builds in part on personal experience, would you describe a time in your own travels when you were dismayed by a monument’s condition?

Guarding the Past: An Interview with Ben Thomas and Chris Doyle, Adventure Travel Trade Association, Archaeological Institute of America, visiting archaeological sites, From Stonehenge to Samarkand, caves of Chauvet-Pont-D’Arc, Lascaux, and Altamira, protect sites, Conservation International, National Trust for Historic Preservation, the World Monuments Fund, the Global Heritage Fund, the Society for American Archaeology, Ben KeeneThomas: My personal interest in site preservation and tourism guidelines is influenced by some of the things I’ve observed in my travels. Most of the sites that I visit have been looted and the destruction done is immeasurable. I have also been surprised at other abuses I’ve seen; for instance, when I was at Petra in Jordan it became very clear from the smell and the waste that people had used the interior of certain monuments as toilets. I have heard from friends that this is also the case at Machu Picchu in Peru. At some sites there are no signs or restrictions and people touch, climb, sit and walk on monuments. Seeing people ignoring posted signs and clambering on monuments is also dismaying.

 

 

Guarding the Past: An Interview with Ben Thomas and Chris Doyle, Adventure Travel Trade Association, Archaeological Institute of America, visiting archaeological sites, From Stonehenge to Samarkand, caves of Chauvet-Pont-D’Arc, Lascaux, and Altamira, protect sites, Conservation International, National Trust for Historic Preservation, the World Monuments Fund, the Global Heritage Fund, the Society for American Archaeology, Ben Keene

The Khazneh (or “Treasury”) at Petra, Jordan. The “urn” at the top of the monument was damaged by gunshots. Local legend claimed that the urn was filled with gold. Treasure seekers would shoot at the urn in hopes of breaking it open and getting the gold. The urn is solid stone and carved out of the rock face along with the rest of the monument. Photos by Kim Berry.

 

 

 

inTravel: Do you think many people are aware of this (growing) problem? Why or why not? What do you hope the guidelines to best practices will ultimately achieve?

Thomas: There’s a general lack of understanding among visitors. Most people are not malicious and aren’t trying to destroy sites. They’re just under-informed and don’t realize or understand the vulnerability of archaeological sites. We’re nearly ready to launch the guidelines though and I hope anyone considering heritage tourism will use them.

Doyle: Part of the ATTA’s mission is to educate and professionalize the industry, and to help travelers become better ambassadors as they travel about the world. The guide is one element of that overall approach to protect and preserve people, culture, and the environment worldwide. We aim to make a more traveler-friendly version available to consumers online at www.adventure.travel as well as at www.adventuretravel.biz for industry employees. A print version will also be distributed to tour operators and guides.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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