The Interpretation of Cultural Heritage: Sharing Māori Cultural Tourism Experiences with International Visitors
Māori cultural tourism can be an important part of the experience for visitors to New Zealand. The purpose of this research is to gain insights into the way guides manage visitor experiences in order to enhance the understanding and appreciation of Māori culture. International visitors are culturally and linguistically diverse. Therefore, not only are there differences in perspectives and beliefs, but also in communication. Furthermore, visitors arrive with differences in knowledge, interest and expectations. This thesis considers approaches to guiding and interpretation in Māori cultural tourism experiences by examining how guides, as cross-cultural mediators, share Māori cultural heritage so that it is meaningful and relevant to visitors. The literature on Māori tourism has examined issues of ownership, participation, control over representation, and the diversification of Māori tourism products. In spite of the shift to reflect tribal diversity, stereotypes are still reinforced in marketing images and tourism products. Although acknowledged as important, there are no published studies on the role of Māori guides. Developed from a social constructivist perspective, this study compares perspectives on and approaches to guiding and interpretation by Māori and non-Māori guides. Data collection was through semi-structured interviews with tour guides and a manager from the chosen case studies, Te Puia and Te Papa, with 21 interviews conducted in June and July 2011. Using a visitor-centred approach to interpretation, guides select information and find relevant connections. Furthermore, the quantity and complexity of information, as well as the style and level of communication is considered. Guides manage the relationship so that visitors feel comfortable, which not only enables interaction and encourages questions but is also important for managing visitors' attitudes. The main challenge identified is the language barrier and working with outside language interpreters. In the comparison between Māori and non-Māori guides, the key differences are found in the guide's background and ways of learning about Māori cultural heritage. This research contributes to the literature on interpretation and indigenous tourism by identifying factors influencing the process of the interpretation of cultural heritage. Furthermore, comparing the perceptions of Māori and non-Māori guides provides a key contribution. The findings of this study have management implications for training of guides.