Eight out of 10 British holidaymakers are not interested in visiting attractions that have performing animals or offer activities with animals outside their natural habitat, according to research released today (Monday 6 November) at World Travel Market London – the leading global event for the travel industry.
In response to the question: “When you are on holiday, do you like to visit attractions with performing animals (ie killer whale shows) or those which offer activities with animals (ie elephant rides)?” 79% replied no, compared to 19% who said yes, the World Travel Market 2017 Industry Report reveals.
The response demonstrates the extent of the growing backlash against attractions using performing animals.
One of the key turning points was the airing in 2013 of the Blackfish documentary, which was highly critical of SeaWorld’s treatment of killer whales in captivity. After the film was aired, attendance figures at SeaWorld Orlando began to drop and the park is now 25th on the global theme park attendance list, down from 12th in 2009, according to figures published by Orlando Weekly.
SeaWorld continues to spark controversy and publicity, such as in July 2017, when actor James Cromwell interrupted the Orca Encounter show using a megaphone to claim the theme park was condemning the mammals to premature deaths. He was later charged with trespass and could go to jail.
In light of growing public distaste, several high-profile travel companies have recently reviewed their policies around selling animal attractions. For example, Expedia Inc said earlier this year it would identify and remove tours and attractions that involve certain wildlife interactions from its sites.
TripAdvisor also announced it would no longer sell tickets and activities where wild animals are forced to come into contact with the public, including elephant rides, tiger encounters and swimming with dolphins.
In February 2017 Virgin Holidays announced it would not sell or promote any new attractions or hotels featuring captive whales and dolphins for theatrical or other entertainment purposes and will encourage existing partners to ‘promote the highest welfare standards for the animals in their care, while also evolving their offering away from theatrical performances’.
Managing director David Geer said: “We believe the way tourists interact with captive whales and dolphins needs to change and we want to play an active role in supporting this transition.”
While Virgin will not promote new animal shows, Thomas Cook is believed to have become the first UK holiday company to cancel links with existing suppliers when, in April 2017, it dropped some dolphin and elephant attractions in Thailand, India, Cuba, Turkey and Dominican Republic after a report showed they did not meet official welfare standards.
At the time Thomas Cook Group chief executive Peter Frankhauser told The Sunday Times: “Our industry has not changed fast enough. By taking these attractions off sale, we are sending a message that we won’t accept anything less than full compliance with the welfare standards our customers would expect.”
Pressure group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), welcomed the companies’ change of policy, saying: “Travel shouldn’t include torture, and we urge kind people to skip any attraction that comes at a captive animal’s expense.”
The message is getting out worldwide. In August 2017, Beijing-based Caissa Touristic said it will stop marketing elephant rides and elephant entertainment shows across Asia, while Asian travel websites fxtrip.com and zanadu.com also promised to sell only ‘elephant-friendly’ tours.
Globally, about 160 tourism companies have so far stopped offering elephant tourism programmes and one-off elephant attractions, according to World Animal Protection (previously known as World Society for the Protection of Animals), which is also putting pressure on cruiselines to think about their shore excursions.
For example, a petition calling on Carnival Cruise Lines to stop featuring Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter in the Cayman Islands, was launched this summer.
World Animal Protection said visitors go there for the opportunity to take a ‘turtle selfie’ but are unaware of the suffering the turtles experience. Instead, the charity wants the farm to operate as a genuine rehabilitation and education centre, where endangered turtles are properly protected.
It seems social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to animal welfare. Much of the backlash against animal attractions has been fuelled by online campaigns or videos going viral of animal mistreatment, yet the growing trend of posting selfies appears to be driving the suffering and exploitation of wildlife.
In a report released in October 2017, World Animal Protection reported a 292% increase in the number of wildlife selfies posted on Instagram since 2014.
Of these, 40% show ‘bad’ wildlife selfies, ie, someone hugging, holding or inappropriately interacting with a wild animal.
The report says people are more likely to post a ‘good’ wildlife selfie when they have been educated or exposed to cruelty behind the scenes. The organisation is talking to Instagram about how it can take action to protect animals on its platform and is asking people to sign a Selfie Code.
WTM London’s Paul Nelson, said: “As a supporter of, and a driving force behind, world responsible tourism, WTM London applauds the changes some of the global travel industry’s key players are making in this field and we fully support the new thinking about the use of animals in attractions.”
About World Travel Market
World Travel Market (WTM) portfolio comprises five leading B2B events across four continents generating more than $7bn of industry deals. The five events are;
WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Around 51,500 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL – London every November generating around £2.8 billion of travel industry contracts. http://london.wtm.com/. Next event: 6-8 Nov 2017 – London.
International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) now in its 20th edition, is the meeting place for the global B2B golf travel community. More than 600 golf tourism suppliers join 350 pre-qualified buyers and 100 international press for four days of unmissable pre-scheduled appointments, exclusive networking opportunities and invaluable industry and trend updates. Taking place in a different destination every year, IGTM brings together 1,400 golf tourism professionals from over 65 countries. http://igtm.wtm.com/. Next event: 11-14 Dec 2017 – Cannes.
World Travel Market Latin America now in its fifth edition attracts about 9,000 unique senior executives. The event generates US$ 370 million of new business. Taking place in Sao Paulo Brazil, this show attracts a global audience to meet and shape the direction of the travel industry. More than 7,000 unique visitors attend the event to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry news. http://latinamerica.wtm.com/. Next event: 3-5 April 2018 – Sao Paulo.
World Travel Market Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. Nearly 5,000 travel industry professionals attend Africa’s leading inbound and outbound travel and tourism market. WTM Africa delivers a proven mix of hosted buyers, media, pre-scheduled appointments, on-site networking, evening functions and invited travel trade visitors. http://africa.wtm.com/. Next event: 18-20 April 2018 – Cape Town.
About Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2017 attracted almost 40,000 industry professionals, agreeing deals worth US$2.5bn over the four days. The 24th edition of ATM showcased over 2,500 exhibiting companies across 12 halls at Dubai World Trade Centre, making it the largest ATM in its 24-year history. www.arabiantravelmarketwtm.com Next event 22-25 April 2018 – Dubai.
About Reed Exhibitions
Reed Exhibitions is the world’s leading events business, enhancing the power of face to face through data and digital tools at over 500 events a year, in more than 30 countries, attracting more than 7m participants.
About Reed Travel Exhibitions
Reed Travel Exhibitions is the world’s leading travel and tourism event’s organiser with a growing portfolio of more than 22 international travel and tourism trade events in Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Our events are market leaders in their sectors, whether it is global and regional leisure travel trade events, or specialist events for meetings, incentives, conference, events (MICE) industry, business travel, luxury travel, travel technology as well as golf, spa and ski travel. We have over 35 years’ experience in organising world-leading travel exhibitions.