TripAdvisor has announced that it will stop selling tickets to tourist attractions where visitors can interact with animals.
The travel site confirmed this week that its ticketing subsidiary Viator will cease selling tickets to any attraction where animals are put into direct contact with humans, such as elephant rides, tiger petting and swimming with dolphins.
The decision follows significant pressure from animal welfare groups, most notably World Animal Protection, which has campaigned for TripAdvisor to stop promoting cruel tourist attractions.
While some attractions will be removed from TripAdvisor’s booking channels immediately, the company plans to fully implement the programme by early 2017. This will also include the launch of a new educational portal, providing traveller information about animal welfare.
World Animal Protection welcomed the decision, but said it falls short of the measures it was campaigning for.
“We congratulate TripAdvisor on taking this important step towards ending the cruel wildlife tourism entertainment industry,” said Steve McIvor, CEO at World Animal Protection. “Once people know the truth about these wildlife abuses they will choose to stay away because they love animals.
“We hope it will only be a matter of time before TripAdvisor will also come to realise that it has to end sales to all cruel wildlife attractions, such as SeaWorld, where the animals endure a lifetime of abuse and highly stressful training to perform,” he added.
Under TripAdvisor’s new policy, attractions where visitors can interaction with domestic animals, such as horseback riding, will remain on sale, as will certain educational and “voluntourism” programmes, where guests interact with animals under expert supervision. Aquariums and zoos where visitors do not come into direct contact with animals will also remain on sale.
In terms of listings, TripAdvisor will continue to provide information for all attractions, with the exception of its long-standing ban on those involved in blood sports, such as bullfights. It argues that, with TripAdvisor users able to leave positive or negative feedback about an attraction, travellers will be able to make their own decisions about the attraction’s suitability.
“For this reason, all animal attractions… will continue to be displayed on TripAdvisor in order that travellers can review those establishments, regardless of whether they meet the company’s criteria as a booking partner,” the company stated.
But by early 2017, every attraction listed on TripAdvisor that involves animals will be identified with a “paw” icon that will link to the new educational portal.