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February 4, 2011


Dianne Biin, (left) program leader of Indigenous Business Leadership program, and Ursula Pfahler, Tourism Management program instructor

A learning lab simulation takes Camosun College students beyond the classroom to a greater understanding of the complexities of community-based tourism planning.

An innovative approach to learning at Camosun's School of Business taught everyone a great deal, says Dianne Biin, program leader of the Indigenous Business Leadership diploma program.

All Tourism Management students at Camosun take Indigenous Tourism Perspectives as part of the curriculum. This past winter, Biin and Ursula Pfahler, Tourism Management program instructor, used role-playing as a learning tool to surprising and successful effect.

Each of the 16 students were assigned various roles including First Nations chiefs, destination marketing organization staff, Parks Canada representatives and local business owners.

The classroom simulation scenario reflected current realities in tourism development by involving two First Nations communities with overlapping traditional territories next to a National Park Reserve, close to a major urban centre. All had differing views on how tourism could be developed in the region.

Over a period of seven weeks, the students researched their roles, sought commonalities with other stakeholders and explored their characters' aspirations. Some sought to bolster their career or create jobs for relatives; one "chief" focused on potential economic benefits, while an "elder" worried tourism development would split the community. Students were unclear about the scope of their roles and encountered communication problems in their attempts to build relationships. For instance, they tried to stay in touch with one another by e-mail and even planned to communicate via an Internet chat room. They soon realized face-to-face meetings made it easier to understand each other's viewpoint and to develop common strategies.

The students documented each step of the process and then visited the Tseycum First Nation. In their discussions with members of the community, they realized how their simulation mirrored issues First Nation communities encounter in trying to create a tourism business. The Tseycum leaders were impressed with the students' dedication to a realistic simulation, their interest in the project, and their newfound understanding of the complexities of community-based tourism planning.

Tourism Management student Catherine Paone was gratified at the insights she gained through this simulation."I have a deeper understanding for how the [planning]process works and how the stakeholders feel," says Paone. "I highly recommend the teachers use this simulation process in the next Indigenous Tourism Perspectives class."

"The learning lab was highly successful," says Pfahler. "The simulation could be further strengthened by extending the assignment over a longer period, introducing students to the Tseycum community earlier in the process, and including second-year students from the Indigenous Business Leadership diploma program."

LinkBC, an organization that works with tourism and hospitality programs across British Columbia to promote best practices in tourism education, asked Biin and Pfahler to share the classroom experience on the LinkBC website.


Ursula Pfahler, Tourism Management program instructor
Tel: 250-370-4135 or 250-995-1948 or
Camosun College Tourism Management

Last updated: April 6, 2011 11:18 am

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