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Through our community-based approach, we design tourism experiences to support tradition-bearers and to ensure their communities benefit from having their cultural heritage shared with the world.

The Cultural Heritage Tourism Initiative uses research and presentation methods from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to curate engaging, inclusive, and sustainable community-based tourism experiences. We help hosts convey their heritage by working together to create extraordinary experiences—both immersive and unforgettable—instilling a sense of place and leaving travelers with enduring memories.

Our process prioritizes an equitable relationship in order to ensure communities directly benefit from sharing their cultural heritage worldwide. Our work in tourism leverages other synergistic initiatives, such as the Center’s work with artisans and the Festival. Activities include cultural heritage documentation, participatory community engagement, destination assessment and asset inventory, experience design and product development, workshops and trainings, enterprise development, market access and linkages, policy reform, and strategic planning.

Guiding Principles
  • Cultural Heritage Representation

    Our approach to product development is research-based. We work with local and community scholars and researchers to identify, document, preserve, and ultimately present cultural heritage to diverse audiences of tourists.

  • Community Benefits and Ownership

    The needs of communities drive our work. Their well-being and perspective are at the core of our approach to program design. We develop a shared vision among stakeholders and implement community-centric solutions that maintain a destination’s integrity while eliciting its distinctive qualities that make it a place people want to visit. We do this by engaging both the private and public sectors to create environments that enable community empowerment and equitable economic opportunities.

  • Market-Driven Approach

    We ensure that solutions align with market demand and enhance competitiveness. This holistic approach integrates and harnesses the private sector in order to create and strengthen linkages across the spectrum of the tourism industry. With the right priorities, it is possible to be both responsible and economically viable. We help find that balance.


View from inside an open-air tour vehicle driving through the mountains of Armenia.

My Armenia Cultural Heritage Tourism Program

Most visitors to Armenia stay in the capital and venture out only to visit iconic natural landscapes and built heritage sites. This model limits interaction and exchange between visitors and local people and concentrates tourism dollars in the capital. My Armenia aims to diversify the product offerings to benefit communities and create vibrant tourism clusters around the country.

In order to achieve this, the Center is working to strengthen Armenia’s cultural heritage tourism offerings—experiences, museums, festivals, and artisans—and helping to revitalize craft traditions in Armenia’s regional communities. Furthermore, the program is increasing awareness of Armenia as a cultural heritage tourism destination, improving cultural tourism workforce skills, and coordinating Government of Armenia, donor, resource partner, and stakeholder involvement to further develop the tourism sector in the country. 


Donors & Partners

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.