Sophie Hayden

Sophie Hayden

Master of International Tourism Management student
Graduate Diploma in International Tourism Management

New Zealand is famous for its beaches, but how easy is it for Kiwis with a disability to access such an important part of New Zealand culture? That’s the interesting topic Sophie Hayden is exploring for her Master of International Tourism Management.

“My master’s degree thesis explores beach access for tourists with disabilities in Mount Maunganui and Papamoa. One in four New Zealanders live with a disability and, as a country that values its beaches and beach culture, I believe it’s important that everyone can participate in such an important part of being a Kiwi.

“My thesis aims to explore the perspectives of stakeholders to see what they think the future of beach access is, and what facilities and attitudes are required to enable more participation in beach tourism in New Zealand. The research in this area is so inspiring and has real potential to drive amazing social change in New Zealand.”

Sophie’s master’s degree research is supervised by Professor Alison McIntosh and Dr Brielle Gillovic from AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism.

A well-rounded university education
For Sophie, her AUT journey started with enrolling in a Graduate Diploma in International Tourism Management before she decided to continue her studies with a Master of International Tourism Management.

“I wanted to pursue a career in tourism, but I knew I didn’t want to attend a ‘tourism school’ because I wanted to get as well-rounded an education as possible. What I liked about AUT is that it has more connotations of innovative and creative thinking than other New Zealand universities.”

Having thoroughly enjoyed her graduate diploma, Sophie jumped at the chance when the opportunity for postgraduate study came up.

“I wanted to chase higher positions in the tourism industry and develop a more well-rounded understanding of what tourism means to New Zealand and to the world. I was grateful to receive an AUT Research Masters Scholarship, which was an invaluable recognition of my abilities and potential to contribute to the university and to tourism literature.

“I enjoy problem-solving and as a postgraduate student I’ve really been able to sink my teeth into challenges faced by communities around the world. The coursework component of the Master of International Tourism Management featured tourism and indigenous communities as a special topic, and that really opened my eyes to the conflicts and opportunities that tourism can bring.”

The right study environment
She would highly recommend AUT’s tourism programmes to other students, Sophie says.

“If you want a career in tourism with a really good background of knowledge, AUT is the place to be.  The lecturers are encouraging, knowledgeable and just as eager as you to see you succeed.”

She considers her studies a gradual awakening to the complexities of the tourism industry and tourism research.

“The courses I took as part of my Graduate Diploma in International Tourism Management and then in the coursework component of my master’s degree showed me many intriguing issues around sustainability, accessibility and indigenous communities. There’s so much to learn, and my next goal is to complete a PhD in a similar field as there’s still so much change to make in the world.”

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