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Motivations, Experiences and Potential Impacts of Visitors to a Monastery in New Zealand: A Case Study

This thesis presents a case study of the potential impacts of pilgrimage and religious tourism in a Catholic context, with a focus on the perspectives of visitors and the host monastic community. The selected research site is the Tyburn Monastery, the only monastery and retreat centre in the Hamilton Catholic Diocese in New Zealand. The monastery is situated in the North Island near Rotorua, a tourist destination in New Zealand that is well known for its geo- thermal activity, adventure sports and promotion of the indigenous Maori culture. Specifically, this thesis studies visitors’ motivations and experiences for visiting the monastery, and the potential impact these visitors have on the monastery and on the monastic community. To achieve this end, and adopting a mixed methods research approach, 22 semi-structured interviews were conducted with visitors who had been to the monastery, from which key themes were elicited, and also a questionnaire based study was conducted with 42 visitors to the monastery. The analysis sheds light on the profile of visitors, the activities in which the visitors participated, and also the visitors’ motives and experiences for the visit. In-depth interviews were conducted with three of the monastic nuns to gain an insight into how visitors potentially impact their monastic life. Most of the visitors were from Hamilton; they were mainly female visitors and over the age of 40 years; they were predominantly day visitors who used their own transport to get to the monastery as there is no public transport available. These visitors were mostly accompanied by family and friends. All the respondents in this study were Catholic. Findings of the qualitative interviews elicited three key motivational themes which were: religious, personal and social motives. Furthermore, the quantitative data revealed the main motives for visiting the monastery were to ‘spend time with God’, ‘to nurture your faith’, ‘and ‘to pray’. Three key experiential themes emerged from the qualitative analysis through the respondents’ narratives of their experiences at the monastery. These were, ‘religious element’ ‘personal experience’ and ‘social setting element’. The monastery significantly influenced the visitors as they expressed that ‘I felt a special spirituality at the monastery’ to be a significant experience. The most popular activities at the monastery, as established from the quantitative analysis, included ‘attending mass’, ‘reciting prayers’ and ‘meditating’. The visitors acknowledged that they were fortunate to be allowed into the monastery, were very satisfied with their visit, and would visit the monastery again. Findings of the interview with three of the nuns at the monastery revealed that all visitors were welcome and are not treated as a burden; in contrast to findings that are perhaps argued in existing religious tourism literature. These findings thereby contribute to the existing scholarly knowledge of how Catholic cloistered monasteries are efficiently managed; this is because of the Benedictine rule that they follow, which lays out principles of governing or administrating and hospitality. The monastery is still new, and limited advertising is done through Catholic magazines and newsletters of the Hamilton dioceses. In spite of this, the monastery receives a number of day visitors, and their retreat rooms also have a high occupancy rate. Care has been taken to insure that visitor numbers do not cause any negative impacts on the monastery environment. In addition, from this research, it can also be concluded that at this monastery there is gender equality, since all visitors are allowed to participate in all the activities of the monastery. This monastery is visited primarily for devotional reasons, as it has no cultural or historical significance unlike the ancient monasteries in Europe and China. The unique experience noted in this research was also because of the rural setting, which therefore could be used to attract international visitors. Essentially, the research findings will aid in the understanding of visitors’ behaviour in relation to religious site management.
Type of thesis
Rodrigues, S. A. M. (2012). Motivations, Experiences and Potential Impacts of Visitors to a Monastery in New Zealand: A Case Study (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6479
University of Waikato
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