In another win for animal rights activists around the world, TripAdvisor will no longer be selling tickets to attractions that involve contact with wild or endangered animals. Some properties and events have already been removed from the company’s website, while the remaining banned attractions will be fully removed by early 2017. The policy was 6 months in the making and builds upon TripAdvisor’s existing ban on any attractions that involve killing or injuring animals, such as bullfights and captive hunts.
What exactly is banned? Some of the more notable items that are being removed from the travel behemoth’s listings are elephant rides, tiger petting, and swims with dolphins. The policy bills itself as a blanket “no touching of wild animals” policy, but it does allow for a few specific exceptions: attractions involving domestic animals are still permitted. So are feeding programs under the supervision of zoological specialists or wildlife officials. Lastly, voluntourism that involves preservation of endangered species or habitats will be exempt from the ban.. Notably, SeaWorld has not been included in the list of banned attractions. This omission has drawn the ire of some, because competitors such as STA Travel have already removed SeaWorld from their offerings.
TripAdvisor is the latest online travel agency to move against animal cruelty, following Intrepid Travel, Responsible Travel, and STA Travel. However, with nearly 700,000 bookable attractions and over 385 million reviews, TripAdvisor is the largest agency by a wide margin. For this reason, the announcement is seen as setting quite a precedent. According to Richard Rees, director of Maldives Whale Shark Research Program: “Out in the real world, TripAdvisor is often the only voice that really scares operators. I like that we’ll have visitors with the right expectations about what good practice is.” TripAdvisor itself, meanwhile, is fully confident in its policy and Chief Marketing Officer Barbara Messing believes the revenue loss from shunning these attractions will be minimal.
TripAdvisor’s attractions are booked through its subsidiary, Viator, while TripAdvisor’s base site contains reviews of tourist locations, attractions, and events. The base site with the reviews will remain mostly untouched, continuing to offer new reviews of these banned activities. According to a statement from the company, “TripAdvisor remains committed to its philosophy that travelers have the right to write about their travel experiences – be it positive or negative.” To promote fair treatment of animals, there will be a new icon on each discouraged activity that resembles an animal’s paw. The paw icon will send a user from the activities’ page to a portal that will educate them on why these activities are frowned upon. This portal is authored through collaboration of nearly a dozen animal conservation organisations including World Animal Protection, Global Wildlife Conservation, Asian Elephant Support, and Think Elephants International.
This welcome news comes hot on the heels of the news that SeaWorld will cancel its orca shows and the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus will retire their elephants this year, two years ahead of schedule. All-together, this has been a year to remember for animal rights. We can only hope that 2017 continues this positive trend.