Professor Simon Milne completed a Master of Arts (Geography) in 1985 which looked at the economic impact of tourism in the Cook Islands.
Over three decades later, Simon says he has the privilege and the honour to be back in the Cook Islands and other Pacific Islands, researching similar topics with resources behind him from AUT to make "a real difference in the area."
After he gained his PhD in Industrial Geography at Cambridge University, Simon taught at McGill University, Montreal in 1989 and remained there until 1998. He established the McGill Tourism Research Group there, but says he couldn’t forget about his research in the Pacific.
Simon continued to complete research in and around the Pacific, albeit from a distance, for example, he researched how the internet could benefit the Pacific Islands as a marketing tool.
He eventually decided to move back home to New Zealand and be closer to the Pacific.
Simon came to AUT in 2002. He saw AUT as a new research-focused university that created collaborative opportunities across disciplines and faculties.
Simon established the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute (NZTRI) here in AUT after its inception in 1998 at Victoria University.
As an economic geographer, Simon has conducted extensive research on tourism and economic development all over the world, and in the Pacific.
Read about Simon's extensive research, consultancy and advisory work, along with a vast list of published journal articles here.
Simon has conducted an International Visitor Survey, interviewing tourists coming and going from the Cook Islands.
"This is building a decision support network system which helps the islands make better decisions about tourism development."
This online survey has gathered more than 25,000 responses and Simon says it is a very powerful database.
"The goal is to create a cost-effective innovative research solution that can help the Cook Islands make better decisions about tourism.
"Our aim is to develop tourism in a way that sustains culture and environment, that doesn't destroy quality of life and is appropriate to people's needs.”
Simon says this is the first research conducted in the Pacific of its kind and it has worked well. So well, that the World Bank has asked the NZTRI to run the same model in Vanuatu and Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia.
"Our research will find out who is visiting these Pacific Islands, why they come and how much they spend. We have already seen very educated and very high-yield visitors that can bring a lot of benefit to our study."