Māori Tourism Product Development Manager, Auckland Unlimited
Bachelor of International Tourism Management
She appreciated the guidance and support from AUT academic staff to help her achieve her career dream, says tourism alumna Kiriana Koni.
“The support I’ve received from AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism and its staff has helped me become an asset in a field that I’ve always aspired to. This can be a reality for every tourism student.”
Being able to attend the World Indigenous Tourism Summit was the highlight for her, says Kiriana who is grateful to AUT hospitality and tourism staff for helping her achieve this goal.
“I was fortunate enough to represent AUT at the World Indigenous Tourism Summit, alongside my lecturers Dr Keri-Anne Wikitera and Dr Hamish Bremner. It was a powerfully inspiring experience to be a part of. At the end of the conference I was given the opportunity to be a part of the closing ceremony under the guidance of Ngāpuhi elder Matua Wiremu Wiremu. It was a privilege to deliver the Mauri stone to the next hosts; the indigenous Aboriginal people of Te Whenua Moemoea.”
From doubts to recognition
She had some self-doubts earlier on in her studies, Kiriana admits.
“At the start of my second year, I had some doubts about crossing the academic finish line within the expected timeframe. Fortunately, my programme leader expressed her confidence in me and offered encouragement and support. We sat down together and planned an approach to help me achieve my goals.”
Kiriana’s hard work and dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed, and in 2017 she received the Mareikura Award at the School of Hospitality and Tourism’s annual award ceremony.
“That was a very emotional moment, especially as the 2016 recipient of the award passed away in 2017. The news of the student’s death shook our faculty. Her whānau attended the awards ceremony and gifted a taonga. As I was awarded, they performed a waiata tautoko, which was a truly rewarding moment.”
Invaluable industry experience
The workplace experience in her final year was another highpoint of Kiriana’s time at AUT.
“I completed my industry placement with The Haka Experience, a business that provides Māori cultural performing services nationally and internationally for corporate and formal events. It was established by Annette and Tapeta Wehi who are renowned leaders and exponents of kapahaka. To work closely with Tapeta Wehi was a reality that seemed unreal and far-fetched at the beginning of this degree. My workplace experience involved managing the organisation’s social media platforms, developing social media content, strategic planning and physically attending the performances.”
This experience also opened the door to other opportunities for Kiriana – while working at The Haka Experience she was profiled for the Go With Tourism campaign, an initiative launched by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) to encourage people to consider a career in tourism.
“This opportunity led to a full-time position as a destination development coordinator at ATEED, which is now known as Auckland Unlimited. I’m currently working here as the Māori tourism product development manager, which means I can directly support the Māori tourism industry in Tāmaki Makaurau and am in a position to support the sector’s recovery.
“Earlier this year I was also selected as an alumni representative on the AUT Tourism Advisory Board, to share my experiences as a graduate and my work experience within the industry. I feel that my career has accelerated in the three years since graduating and recognise that my AUT education was fundamental to this.”