Tripadvisor to stop selling certain animal attractions and create information portal on issues

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Booking and review site TripAdvisor has today announced its commitment to changes its policy on selling tickets to animal attractions, and to launch a new education portal to help inform travellers about the standards of care for wild, captive, and endangered species in tourism and their interactions with tourists, and their impact on wildlife conservation.

Starting today, TripAdvisor and its Viator brand will no longer sell tickets for specific tourism experiences where travellers come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species, including but not limited to elephant rides, petting tigers, and swim with dolphin attractions. While some attractions will cease booking through TripAdvisor immediately, the company plans to have both the educational portal and booking policy changes fully-launched and implemented by early 2017.

TripAdvisor and its Viator brand will no longer sell tickets for specific tourism experiences where travellers come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species

“TripAdvisor’s new booking policy and education effort is designed as a means to do our part in helping improve the health and safety standards of animals, especially in markets with limited regulatory protections,” said Stephen Kaufer, president and CEO, TripAdvisor.  “At the same time, we want to celebrate those destinations and attractions that are leaders in caring for animals and those in the tourism industry who help further the cause of animal welfare, conservation and the preservation of endangered species.”

From next year, a new education portal will be linked to every animal attraction listing on TripAdvisor. The portal will provide links and information on animal welfare practices, designed to inform travellers about a range of opinions that exist on the conservation implications and benefits of some tourism attractions. The content will be supplied by a range of  experts in the fields of sustainable tourism, animal welfare, wildlife conservation and the zoological and marine sciences. Initial partners include the trade accreditation organisation Association of Zoos and Aquariums; the conservation organisation Global Wildlife Conservation, Asian Elephant Support and Think Elephants International; tourism experts ABTA – The Travel Association, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Sustainable Travel International and the TreadRight Foundation; academic leaders in the sciences of animal conservation and animal welfare like Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU)  and animal welfare groups including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and World Animal Protection (WAP).

“We are delighted that TripAdvisor are seeking to educate consumers about the importance of animal welfare, and that ABTA’s animal welfare guides will feature as such an important part of that education process.,”said Nikki White, Director of Destinations and Sustainability, ABTA – The Travel Association. Our guides can provide a common, expert frame of reference for companies and individuals to make important decisions about which attractions to feature,”

Booking changes

For several years, Viator has supported animal welfare standards in its booking policies, inclusive of a prohibition on bookings where captive wild animals are killed or injured for blood sport.  Building on those initial standards, the following changes and amendments were made to TripAdvisor and Viator’s booking policy concerning animals:

TripAdvisor and its Viator brand will no longer sell tickets to, or generate booking revenue from, specific attractions where tourists come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species, including but not limited to elephant rides, “swim with” programs where tourists touch or ride on dolphins, the petting of captive wild or endangered species, etc.

“The tip of the iceberg, conspicuous above the water, is the welfare of wild animals in tourist attractions” Professor David Macdonald, founding Director of Oxford University’s WildCRU

For attractions that can provide evidence that they are in-policy, but were impacted by today’s decision, TripAdvisor and Viator will implement an appeals process to re-establish ticket sales to certain experiences that may have been excluded through our booking policy update.

The policy includes several exemptions, including:

    • Domestic animals, e.g. horseback riding, children’s petting zoos with domestic animals like rabbits, etc.
    • Aquarium touch pools used for education purposes where tourists are under the supervision of zoo, aquarium and or wildlife officials
    • Feeding programmes where tourists are under the supervision of zoo and or wildlife officials
    • Voluntourism programmes for endangered species preservation at zoos, aquariums or sanctuaries where it is possible that there might be some level of physical interaction with an animal.

“The tip of the iceberg, conspicuous above the water, is the welfare of wild animals in tourist attractions, but hidden beneath the metaphorical waterline can be a huge cascade of effects on the welfare of animals in the wild, from which specimens may be taken, and the far-reaching impacts on their conservation,” said Professor David Macdonald, founding Director of Oxford University’s WildCRU.

“If our involvement in TripAdvisor’s education portal can help us inform millions of tourists about the likely impact of their choices on wildlife conservation, WildCRU will be proud; beyond informing them, if we can contribute to driving change in the industry to improve conservation standards in tourism, we will be even more proud. We at WildCRU are professional researchers, and we are especially excited about using our analytical skills to collaborate with colleagues at TripAdvisor to research how the education portal affects behaviour change and conservation outcomes.”

Jeremy Smithhttp://www.jmcsmith.com
Jeremy Smith is the editor and co-founder of Travindy. He is a writer and communications consultant working for a more responsible and sustainable tourism industry. He is the author of two books, writes a fortnightly blog on responsible tourism for World Travel Market, and provides consultancy to a wide range of companies and organisations, ranging from National Parks to individual hotels and tour operators.

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