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Tourism Role Play

Number 18 - July 1999

L. Sutherland


Developing educational programmes that target young adults is a challenge and many educators and interpreters use role play to try and convey concepts to young adults in a more interesting and involving manner.

This role play was designed for senior high school and university students with the aim of increasing their understanding and awareness about the needs and issues faced by different nature based operators, their competitors and the needs of different clients. The activity is based on a current real-life scenario in Queensland, Australia. It is important to let students know this as it adds a realistic component to the activity.


  • A place in which to hold a 'formal' meeting with table and chairs
  • Character cards (see below) for the following: Brisbane Forest Park (BFP) Manager (played by the Interpretation Officer)

Student Roles

  1. BFP staff member (chair of the meeting)
  2. Local resident
  3. Japanese tourist
  4. Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary staff member
  5. School student
  6. Queensland Travel and Tourist Corporation (QTTC) representative

If there are more than six students participating in the role-play, two students can play the same role or if the group is larger than 12,  two meetings can be held consecutively.

Outline of Activity

  • The Interpretation Officer introduces him or herself as the Manager of Brisbane Forest Park and outlines the scenario to the students (see scenario information below).
  • Roles are assigned to each of the students and they are given 5-10 minutes to prepare for the meeting.
  • Students take their place at the meeting which is chaired by one of their colleagues, who has been assigned to the role of a Brisbane Forest Park staff member. The chair sits at the head of the table.
  • The students, in their roles, are asked to work out a strategy for the park
  • The chair presents the strategy to the Manager of BFP.
  • A short debriefing session is held to discuss the activity.

Time Schedule

The exact time taken on each component varies depending on the group, their interests and involvement. It is important to ensure that there is enough time allocated at the end of the session for recommendations to be presented and a debriefing to take place.

  • Introduction to activity and roles assigned to students (5 minutes)
  • Students get into character and prepare for the 'meeting' (10 minutes)
  • Student playing the role of the BFP staff member chairs the meeting (30 minutes)
  • Chair presents the results of the meeting to Brisbane Forest Park Manager (10 minutes)
  • Debriefing session (5 minutes)

Scenario (introduced by the Manager of BFP - alias the Interpretation Officer)

Until recently there were two wildlife centres within close proximity to Brisbane city: Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary and Walk-about Creek Wildlife Centre.

Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary, which has now closed, attracted a variety of visitors including school groups (country and city), local people with international guests, and Australian, German (largest market), Korean and Japanese tourists. Walk-about Creek Wildlife Centre, based at Brisbane Forest Park (BFP) Headquarters, attracts mainly Brisbane residents, in particular families, some of whom are entertaining international guests, and school groups.

BFP has always considered Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary as one of its major competitors because of its easy access and proximity to the city and public transport. Now that Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary has closed an opportunity has opened up for BFP to tap into the client market created by Billabong.

In response to this, BFP staff decided to organise a meeting with key representatives of client groups to work out a strategy for BFP to promote Walk-about Creek Wildlife Centre. The aim is to attract clients, who previously visited Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary, before they seek similar experiences elsewhere with other competitors e.g Underwater world, David Fleays Wildlife Sanctuary and Currumbin Sanctuary.  The outcomes of the meeting are to develop a set of strategies for increasing visitation to this ecotourism venue.

Character Cards and Scene Setting

Brisbane Forest Park Employee (chair)

Walk-about Creek Wildlife Centre, located at BFP, has just been expanded to enable more animals to be displayed and to include an interpretive component that highlights the need to protect native flora and fauna and the importance that water plays to all life. Since its initial opening in 1990 however, visitor numbers have steadily dropped from 45,000 visits per year to 25,000 over an eight-year period.

You are the Chair of this meeting. You have invited all these people together to help you develop a strategy for increasing visitation to Walk-about Creek Wildlife Centre. It is important to remember that all ideas for interpreting the centre must convey the value of water to life.

At the moment there is only a limited budget for marketing, however you want to develop a series of actions that you can recommend to the Manager of Brisbane Forest Park to convince him or her of the importance of ‘you have to spend money to make money’, thereby enabling you to get an increase in your budget for marketing and targeting international clients.

Why not start the meeting by setting a few ground rules?  For example: when one person is talking, everyone else must listen. Also consider going around the table and asking everyone to introduce themself, this way they will all feel involved. To start the discussion you might like to consider asking the following questions:

  • What types of people would be attracted to Walk-about Creek Wildlife Centre?
  • What are people willing to pay for a visit to an attraction like Walk-about Creek Wildlife Centre?
  • What makes people keep returning to centres like the Walk-about Creek Wildlife Centre?
  • How do we go about marketing to these key client groups?

Remember it is your job to pull together everyone's ideas into a series of action points that you can recommend to the Manager of BFP.

Local Resident

You are a local Brisbane resident who is very interested in Australian fauna. Think about:

  • Your age, hobbies/interests, if you have children/grand children etc.
  • Why did you visit Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary in the past?
  • What you are willing to pay to visit to a natural area?
  • How often you visit attractions like Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary on an annual basis?
  • How far you are willing to travel in a day to visit attractions in your local area?

Japanese Tourist

This is your second visit to Australia. Think about:

  • Your age and profession.
  • How often do you travel?
  • What are the key animals and attractions that encourage you to visit somewhere like Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary in Australia?
  • What are you willing to pay for a visit?
  • How far you are willing to travel in a day to visit attractions?
  • How long you would stay in a city like Brisbane for Holidays?

Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary Employee

You worked at Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary for 5 years and are very knowledgeable about animal displays. You have a good understanding of international tourists and the ‘icon animals’ they are attracted to. Think about:

  • Which animals attract tourists?
  • What people expect when they go to see live animals. For example, do they like to touch the animals? Get their photos taken in front of them?
  • What else are tourists interested in - Visiting a cafe? Buying a souvenir? etc.

School Student

You attend a local school. Think about:

  • Your age, interests, personality and socio-economic situation.
  • What makes school excursions interesting and fun?
  • What kinds of attractions you like to see on weekends?
  • What kinds of activities you like to do?

Queensland Travel and Tourist Corporation (QTTC) Representative

Tourism is your primary concern, in particular nature-based tourism. Your agency, QTTC, seeks out attractions of a high standard as an 'ambassador' for Queensland. It also encourages people to extend their stay and explore further, so boosting Queensland’s economy. QTTC wants facilities that attract people with a variety of budgets. Think about:

  • What types of attractions are going to contribute to the Brisbane economy?
  • What icons will attract international guests?
  • What ideas you have for visits to suit a range of budgets?