Improving the welfare of animals in tourism

Elephants, source: Pixabay

Wildlife holidays are very popular among European travellers. Seeing iconic animals in their natural habitats is often the highlight of these holidays. To appeal to the European market, you need to have strict welfare policies in place. These policies ensure that wildlife tourism experiences are ethical, sustainable and meet high standards of animal welfare.

Developing wildlife attractions sustainably and responsibly

Conserving wildlife and preserving its fragile ecosystems are major global issues. Opinions about wildlife attractions have changed in the last few years. But there is still a lot of negative publicity about poorly managed wildlife attractions.

Selfies with tiger cubs and riding elephants for fun was once common. But now, many people understand that wild animals should have limited interaction with humans. An increasing number of Europeans has concerns about animal cruelty. And, there are many global animal welfare organisations educating travellers. These include Animondial and Four Paws.

The message to European and North American travellers is: Do not take part in any animal interactions. This includes:

  • Taking close-up photographs;
  • Handling animals;
  • Watching them perform tricks; and
  • Buying souvenirs made from animal parts.

Developing wildlife tourism attractions that follow ethical, sustainable and responsible principles has become extremely important for local operators.

Promoting strict animal welfare standards

Animal cruelty triggers strong emotions. Two-thirds of British travellers worry about how tourism impacts the welfare of animals. Most European tour operators have very strict animal welfare policies in place. These policies also apply to their local suppliers.

Responsible Travel is an online travel agency (OTA). It offers sustainable and responsible holidays from 450 operators. It has strict wildlife policies that cover many different species. These include elephants, marine life, tigers and animals in captivity. Other OTAs are also starting to put wildlife policies in place.

Airbnb developed its Airbnb Experience’s Animal Welfare Guidelines with World Animal Protection. World Animal Protection is a campaigning organisation dedicated to improving the lives of animals. Viator has similar animal welfare policies in place. These travel companies are among the largest OTAs on the market. Both encourage tourists to report attractions that do not follow their policies. They then remove these attractions from their sites. In a 2020 global poll, Airbnb ranked as the top OTA proactively fighting animal cruelty. Viator/Tripadvisor came in second place.

The future for ethical wildlife tourism

The demand for ethical wildlife encounters comes partly from those travelling. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired consumers to live more sustainably. This includes their travelling preferences. More and more often, tourists choose to avoid animal experiences that exploit wild animals. Tour operators are also choosing not to do business with attractions that operate unethically. This creates hope that in the future high standards of animal welfare in tourism will be the norm.

To find out more about sustainability in wildlife tourism, read the new CBI reports:

Acorn Tourism Consulting Limited wrote this news article for CBI.

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