Senior Lecturer, Department of Tourism Management, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka
Doctor of Philosophy
Deciding to study at AUT was easy, says Dr Sarath Munasinghe who came to AUT as an international student from Sri Lanka to complete a PhD in hospitality.
“I’ve always been fascinated with hospitality, and the interactions between hosts and guests in tourism. AUT has academic staff who are known as experts in the area of my research interest and I was offered a Faculty of Culture and Society Doctoral Scholarship, so I didn’t have to think twice about choosing AUT.”
Studying in New Zealand was a dream come true for him.
“Since my childhood, I’ve had a very positive impression of New Zealand as a country, so New Zealand was on the top of my list of the countries where I wanted to study.”
A new take on hospitality
For his doctoral research, Sarath studied the tourists’ experience of hospitality in relation to Sri Lankan travel experience.
“The notion of hospitality in tourism is largely confined to an economic activity of providing food, beverage, accommodation and related services to tourists. My research argues that hospitality goes beyond economic activities and venues, and tourists experience hospitality in the entirety of encounters with people – the hosts – in the destination.”
Having graduated in the 2019 AUT Summer Graduation, Sarath has had a number of opportunities to present his work.
“I’ve represented AUT at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Global Insight Conference, where I and some of my colleagues shared our thoughts with tourism industry representatives in the Asia-Pacific region. I’ve also represented AUT at the 28th Council for Australasian Tourism and Hospitality Education (CAUTHE) conference in Newcastle, Australia.”
A nurturing research culture
AUT offers a nurturing atmosphere to grow as a researcher, says Sarath who returned to his role as a lecturer at Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka after he finished his PhD.
“My supervisors and other staff across AUT have shown me wonderful support. I’ve also had many opportunities to network and collaborate with like-minded researchers at AUT.
“The Postgraduate Symposium, NZTRI seminar sessions, Three Minute Thesis competition and the student clubs are just a few examples of opportunities to discuss our research and topics of interest in tourism. I’ve also been involved in forming the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA): AUT student chapter, which is the first of its kind in New Zealand and will work closely with the Pacific Asia Travel Association.”
He has appreciated the services available to students.
“The student support systems at AUT are amazing. I especially valued the library with its invaluable collection of books, online resources and inter-library loan system, and the workshops run by the library and the Graduate Research School to support research and researcher development.”