More than everyday tourism aim of study
Research highlighting the significance of sustainable cultural tourism is the objective for University of Waikato PhD candidate Mei Cooper.
The 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 Cooper.
She said tourism could potentially exploit the natural environment and host communities, contradicting those values she held important as a Maori woman researcher.
‘‘But now I think we can turn that around and we can use tourism to determine our own future through sustainable cultural tourism.’’
Cooper – 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.
She is the recipient of a Te Kotahi Research 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 Awamarahi, Turangawaewae and Maungatautari Marae.
‘‘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 said.
She said many Maori tourism ventures were simply investments in tourism businesses.
‘‘I’m from Waikato-Tainui and a lot of our tourism investments are commercially driven, such as the Ibis and Novotel hotels in Hamilton and Auckland Airport.
‘‘It should also be about the natural environment, our culture and the people. I want to provide a framework for Maori 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.’’
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 Maori 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.’’
Cooper is nearing the completion of her first year of her doctorate, studying through the Waikato Management School with guidance from the School of Maori and Pacific Development.
She is developing her project by working with government departments such as the Ministry of Tourism and Te Puni Kokiri before visiting marae to carry out case studies.
SCHOLAR: University of Waikato PhD candidate Mei Cooper of Ngaruawahia is studying the distinction between tourism alone and sustainable cultural tourism.