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Bringing the museum to life


Today’s best museums are about putting across educational information in a way that’s entertaining and engaging and makes the most of a visitor’s time. Auckland War Memorial Museum is one of the most outstanding in Australasia. Being one of its Visitor Hosts is among the most important jobs, ensuring millions of visitors enjoy an all-round memorable experience from the moment they arrive.

Parai Parai (yes, that’s his full name) is 37 years-old and part of a team of about forty reliable and attentive hosts ready to help make each visitor’s experience of the museum even better.

His busy role includes everything from greeting visitors, offering them information about the museum’s collections, visitor and exhibition policy, promoting new exhibitions and events and where to find them, guiding groups including schools around the museum, visitor health and safety, and always keeping a lookout for lost visitors.

Parai says with a smile, “If we can’t deal with it, no one can.”

Four years ago, Parai was working in the building as a cleaner when museum staff he’d made friends with pointed out the Visitor Services position to him.

“It’s such a great place to be each day, my uncle still doesn’t believe I work here. I got to know some of the visitor hosts and liked the look of what they did on their rounds so when a role came up they encouraged me to apply.”

Parai considers himself an extrovert, so the job seemed made for him.

“I like interacting with people and what better way to do that than in this role.”

His Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts and Diploma in Dance and Drama have proven very useful. He often gets involved in the ‘Night at the Museum’ events where he’s put his acting talents to work in various roles including as a paleontologist.

In case you didn’t know, ‘Night at the Museum’ is always a sell-out, giving visitors an opportunity to walk the shadowy galleries at night and meet a host of historical characters with stories to tell. It’s a brilliantly fun way to experience the museum, and it’s a little bit spooky!

To deepen his skill and knowledge as a Visitor Host, Parai recently gained the NZ Certificate in Tourism (Visitor Experience) – Level 3 qualification.

He says the ServiceIQ on-job training programme, which is also being completed by some of his colleagues, gave him the tools he needed and made him realise the value of his role.

Parai Parai circle

“The training showed me fresh ways to look at problems and how to find solutions. Ultimately, it reminded me just how important it is to make the right connections when people come to see us.”

To succeed, Parai learned and demonstrated to his museum in-house assessor a wide range of knowledge needed in a tourism operation including: identifying and explaining kaitiaki practices in tourism Māori, verbal communication skills and customer service theory, liaising with international visitors, environmental responsibility, working effectively on a team project, dealing with customer complaints, sales process, and more.

He singles out ServiceIQ’s Training Advisor Carol Tapsell, for the help and advice she gave him throughout the programme.

“Carol took the time to come and see me and be the person from outside the organisation who could provide an objective view and check that my work on the programme was okay. I’m really grateful for her help.”

There’s obviously plenty to enjoy about his job at the museum, but what are the real highlights for Parai?

“It’s meeting people from all over the world and every day I’m learning so much. And I really enjoying showing parents and children the ‘Weird and Wonderful’ exhibition space. It’s great to see their reactions as they get hands-on with some of the amazing exhibits.”

His work at the museum has inspired Parai to study child psychology, and his ambition is to one day work in the museum’s learning and development area. It’s where he’d like to focus on children’s education and use his communication and creative talents to bring learning alive for the next generation of young New Zealanders.

For more information, please contact ServiceIQ on 0800 863 693 or email