TripAdvisor has won praise from animal rights groups for its decision to end bookings for experiences that offer contact with captive animals.
This Tuesday the travel review website revealed in a press release that its booking service, Viator, would end any offers to book tickets to attractions at which tourists can touch captive animals or any endangered species.
No more bookings for distressing animal experiences
Among these controversial attractions are places where you can pet tigers, swim with dolphins or ride on elephants. While this doesn’t mean that the attractions will close down, it does make it harder to snap a selfie with distressed animals that may have been drugged.
Hundreds of listings will be affected by the change, that will come into force by early next year. Alongside the ticketing ban, TripAdvisor will also make an educational portal focused on animal welfare. Users are invited to read the resources before leaving their opinion on good welfare practices, wildlife conservation, and sustainable tourism.
“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, the president and CEO of TripAdvisor. “We believe the end result of our efforts will be enabling travelers to make more thoughtful choices about whether to visit an animal attraction and to write more meaningful reviews about those attractions.”
Animal rights groups welcome changes
The affected attractions will still be listed on TripAdvisor, with an animal paw print icon alongside. They will also have a link through to the animal welfare education portal.
Listings will not be removed due to the idea that users should be able to leave negative reviews if they notice malpractice. This can help to make businesses more accountable.
None of the changes will affect petting zoos with domestic animals. Nor will horseback riding, voluntourism programs or animal feeding programs be affected. TripAdvisor has already banned any attractions that feature blood sports involving captive animals, including bull fighting.
The new policy is the result of six months work. Tourism, animal welfare, and conservation groups were all asked for their input, and the move has been praised by animal rights groups.
“They’re making a policy change that is pretty commendable and hopefully industry-leading — not only how these travel companies operate, but also how local tourist sites operate,” said Wes Sechrest, chief scientist, and CEO at Global Wildlife Conservation.
More work needed to protect vulnerable animals
Brian Hoyt, TripAdvisor’s senior director of corporate communications, did not reveal exactly how many businesses would be affected. However, he did say that it numbers in the “hundreds.”
Hoyt did not say how much revenue TripAdvisor stands to lose as a result of the change, but it is not expected to be “material to the business.”
While the move is a step forward in terms of raising awareness of animal welfare issues, it is still possible for people to book animal contact experiences outside of TripAdvisor.
“If they want to go and choose someplace else to book that experience, that’s their prerogative,” Hoyt said. “Hopefully they’ll learn a lot about why that experience might not be healthy for that animal through the education portal. We hope they’ll make more informed decisions down the road.”
The use of captive animals for entertainment will not end overnight just because of TripAdvisor, but the move is a welcome one all the same.