May 10, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Sustainable cultural tourism focus for doctoral student

2 min read

(Waikato University) Research highlighting the significance of sustainable cultural tourism is the objective for University of Waikato PhD candidate Mei Cooper.

mei-cooperThe distinction between tourism alone and sustainable cultural tourism which prioritises the wellbeing of indigenous communities, cultural preservation and conserving the natural environment while providing economic returns to tribes is important for Mei.

She says tourism can potentially exploit the natural environment and host communities, contradicting those values she holds important as a Maori woman researcher.

Sustainable cultural tourism

“But now I think we can turn that around and we can use tourism to determine our own future through sustainable cultural tourism.”

Mei from Ngaruawahia – will be doing her bit to achieve that over the next three years as she completes her doctorate at the University of Waikato.

Te Kotahi Research Institute Doctoral Scholarship

She is the recipient of a Te KotahiResearch Institute Doctoral Scholarship, worth up to $85,000, and is researching whether tribal investment in sustainable cultural tourism along the Waikato River will improve the tribal wellbeing of Waikato-Tainui.

She will also carry out case studies at Te Awam?rahi, T?rangawaewae and Maungatautari Marae, chosen for their location along the Waikato River.

New Zealand tourism

“Tourism is one of New Zealand’s leading industries and plays a growing role in the New Zealand economy. Sustainable cultural tourism can help us regenerate our language and culture,” she says.

She says many Maori tourism ventures are simply investments in tourism businesses.

“I’m from Waikato-Tainui and the tribe’s tourism investments since the 1995 Deed of Settlement (almost twenty years ago) are commercially driven, such as the Ibis and Novotel hotels in Hamilton and Auckland Airport and Te Awa Shopping Complex at Te Rapa Hamilton,” she says.

“It should also be about the natural environment, our culture and the people. I want to provide a framework for M?ori to develop a design that will work for them. Sustainable cultural tourism can provide employment at all different levels for the people and marae can be run like sustainable businesses.”

Useful research

She wants her completed work to provide a guide for marae looking to investigate sustainable cultural tourism.

“This research will use a bottom-up approach working with M?ori at grassroots level to design a structure unique to each marae. I want this research to be practical, easy to use and useful to all iwi and other indigenous people throughout the world.”

Mei is nearing the completion of her first year of her doctorate, studying through the Waikato Management School with guidance from the School of M?ori and Pacific Development.

She is currently developing her project by working with government departments such as the Ministry of Tourism and Te Puni K?kiri before visiting marae to carry out case studies.

“I am very lucky to have this scholarship and I want to contribute back to our people in any positive way,” she says.

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