Whakarewarewa Tourism Development: a Critical Analysis of Place and Space

Wikitera, Keri-Anne
Ateljevic, Irana
Bremner, Hamish
Keiha, Pare
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

This study focuses on a small hapu (Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao) tourism enterprise in the village of Whakarewarewa, Rotorua, New Zealand. The enterprise is a family run business, Whakarewarewa Thermal Village that has been actively involved in tourism entrepreneurial efforts in New Zealand. Whakarewarewa is used as an example to show the complexities of tourism development and the importance of representation of identities in assessing the flows of the global economy and their relation to local cultural construction of place. The analysis utilises an ‘insider’ perspective and draws on the enterprise as being the locus of cultural revival and identity (re)creation for the hapu, while synchronously creating a commercial context for the personal experience the ‘post-modern’ tourist now desires. The tension found in this production-consumption dialectic provides a context to both validate this ‘new’ approach to tourism studies and seek future development opportunities for the hapu. The emergent cultural turn in tourism studies has facilitated new ways of approaching tourism research within a critical development paradigm. This critical development theory promotes the importance of locally negotiated development and the understanding and embracing of the complexities embedded in the circuits found flowing through the global, national, regional and local scales. The local perspective further endorses issues of representation revealing the inadequacy of traditional development theory in conceptualising indigenous tourism development. Furthermore providing evidence of the negative influence the application of development theory has had on the case enterprise through largely the discounting of Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao development paradigms (historic) in favour of the modernist approach. The theoretical argument implies that the catalyst for development is ‘underdevelopment’ (and with a singular economic focus). This research contends that while these ‘new’ tourism studies approaches are emerging, the case study provides evidence of critical tourism development undertaken by the people of the hapu (or the local) from the mid 19th century. Therefore ‘new’ tourism development paradigms are not necessarily ‘new’ but rather are being rediscovered. Accordingly articulation of ‘development’ has been largely influenced by what has been considered significant in Western terms - that of a singular and pragmatic economic imperative.

Tourism; New Zealand; Whakarewarewa
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