Success! TripAdvisor Stops Booking Animal Experience Tickets
Finally, Care2 readers, your pleas have been heard. TripAdvisor just became the first travel web site to discontinue selling tickets for tourism experiences that allow travelers come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species.
That means the world’s largest travel site and Viator, its ticket sales company, won’t be selling tickets to swim with dolphins, pet captive tigers or ride elephants anymore. This terrific news comes after about six months of discussions between TripAdvisor and several animal welfare organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Global Wildlife Conservation.
Care2 first told you in April 2016 about the need to convince TripAdvisor to stop selling tickets to animal attractions. World Animal Protection sponsored a Care2 petition that many of you signed. It seems your voices, and those of many others, made a big difference.
TripAdvisor now intends to use its ticketing policy to help improve the health and safety standards of animals, particularly in markets with limited regulatory protections.
“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,” TripAdvisor chief executive and co-founder Stephen Kaufer said in a press release.
Why was this move so important? It’s because of what animals go through in order to become “entertainers” for humans. Many tourists have no idea that animal attractions are harmful to the animals. Just riding on top of an elephant or touching the fins of nearby dolphins seems innocuous enough on the surface.
What tourists don’t realize is that these poor creatures are bred in captivity or captured from their natural homes, tormented as they are “trained,” and often psychologically damaged. As the National Geographic pointed out:
When being trained to carry visitors, elephants go through a ‘crush,’ which often involves being beaten with nail-tipped sticks and immobilized in small cages. Tigers and lions often are drugged to make them sedate and safer for tourists to pet and take photos with. Dolphins kept captive for tourists to swim with are unable to hunt, roam, and play as they would in the wild, which raises their level of stress and can result in behavioral abnormalities.
All of this mistreatment is simply wrong. It needs to stop. Until it does, the fewer tickets sold to such attractions, the better. TripAdvisor just did the right thing. It has taken a historic first step that other travel booking sites need to follow.
“By refusing to sell tickets to businesses that treat animals as entertainment or playthings, TripAdvisor is making a precedent-setting statement about the use and abuse of animals for entertainment,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in TripAdvisor’s press release. TripAdvisor also intends to develop and launch an education portal that will be linked to every animal-related attraction listed on its site.
“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,” Kaufer said.
Not every animal-related attraction is affected by this decision. Trips that will still be bookable on TripAdvisor include some dealing with supervised animal interaction, such as:
- 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 programs where tourists are under the supervision of zoo and or wildlife officials
- “Voluntourism” programs 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
When all the changes go into full effect in 2017, you’ll still be able to see reviews for the now-banned activities and their prior reviews, but you won’t be able to book any tickets for them. Instead, you’ll see a “paw” icon that will take you to the site’s under-development education portal.
The content on that portal will provide numerous points of view from subject matter experts in sustainable tourism, animal welfare, wildlife conservation and the zoological and marine sciences. Those experts include:
- Association of Zoos and Aquariums
- Global Wildlife Conservation
- Asian Elephant Support
- Think Elephants International
- ABTA – The Travel Association
- Pacific Asia Travel Association
- Sustainable Travel International
- The TreadRight Foundation
- Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit
- World Animal Protection
One thing you won’t see on TripAdvisor at all are events that feature animals killed or injured as part of a blood sport — no bullfighting, no captive hunting trips. TripAdvisor has refused to book such tickets for several years.
Certainly, some animal groups would have preferred seeing a total stop to selling tickets to any attraction dealing with animals in any way. That’s a view many of us share. However, this new TripAdvisor policy represents a compromise. It’s better than the status quo for the animals and is a huge step in the right direction.
“TripAdvisor’s competitors and others within the travel industry will take note of this, and we hope and expect that many other companies will follow,” PETA’s Stephanie Shaw told the New York Times.
Do you want to help convince other travel industry giants to follow suit? If so, please sign this petition to Expedia. Care2 will ensure your signatures get to the corporate leadership at Expedia, demanding they adopt the same (or better) animal welfare policies for booking tickets.
Photo credit (all photos): Thinkstock