FOLLOWING pressure from wildlife preservation groups, TripAdvisor has halted ticket sales for all tourist attractions where visitors are allowed to interact with animals.
The travel site announced that its ticketing subsidiary Viator will cease selling tickets to any attractions where animals are put into direct contact with humans, such as elephant rides, tiger petting, and swimming with dolphins.
Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor president and CEO, said, “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.”
On top of the ticketing ban, the company also partnered with several conservation experts and animal rights groups to launch an “education portal” aimed at educating travelers about animal welfare practices in tourism.
Animal rights activists and organizations – most notably World Animal Protection – have long campaigned against cruel wildlife tourist attractions that can bring about suffering and stress to animals.
— Animal_Watch (@Animal_Watch) October 12, 2016
According to The Washington Post, TripAdvisor features nearly 700,000 attractions, of which a few thousand involve animal encounters.
Barbara Messing, TripAdvisor’s chief marketing officer, said, “It’s not a huge revenue loss [but] it’s a big win for animal-welfare standards.”
As the announcement was largely received positively among animal welfare organizations, some were concerned about the issue of animals being held captive, but not necessarily “in contact” with tourists.
For example, SeaWorld – that holds captive up to 29 orcas – will be unaffected by TripAdvisor’s new ruling. Danny Groves of of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society told The Guardian, “[The ticketing ban] is a positive step, but it does not address the issue of promoting trips to see whales and dolphins that are held captive.”
“It would be great to see TripAdvisor take action in this regard,” he added.
The online travel agency will start removing animal-related tours from Viator immediately and will continue to weed them out through early next year. However, tours cut from the site can appeal the decision and may be reinstated, depending on the evidence.