elephant washing thailandTripAdvisor has bowed to pressure from animal rights lobby groups and will no longer take bookings on its site or Viator for “hundreds of animal attractions where tourists 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”.

The company, which is also launching an education portal on animals in tourism, will drop many offending attractions immediately and have all booking changes in place by early 2017.

CEO Stedve Kaufer commented: “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.

“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.”

Exemptions include:

  • 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

TripAdvisor has come under enormous pressure from animal rights groups to change its business practices in this area.

Its new approach has received widespread acclaim and has been endorsed by groups and govt organisations including:

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, ABTA – The Travel Association, Global Wildlife Conservation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), Sustainable Travel International, The TreadRight Foundation, Think Elephants International, Asian Elephant Support, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and World Animal Protection (WAP).

“This is a significant step towards ending wildlife tourism cruelties, and we hope it will have a huge influence on the tourism industry as a whole,”said Steve McIvor, CEO, World Animal Protection.

“We believe once people know about these wildlife abuses, they will make other travel choices because of their love for animals.”

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