September 27th is World Tourism Day. That makes this a good day to consider the impact this trillion-dollar industry has on wildlife.
A recent poll suggests young travelers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact tourism has on animals. This awareness is influencing their travel choices for the better.
Riding elephants, swimming with dolphins, taking selfies with wild animals, are tourist activities that harm to animals. Sadly, many tourists participate in these activities without understanding the harm it causes animals and the environment. Animals suffer mental and physical abuse when they interact with tourists. The good news, according to recent research, is that once tourists understand the cruelty involved they opt out.
A 2017 KANTAR poll shows a 9%-44% decrease in the number of people riding elephants compared to three years ago. The poll also shows that more than 80% of tourists prefer to see animals in their natural habitat. This helps explain the rise in animal-friendly tourism. This trend is even more pronounced among millennial (aged 18-35) travelers.
“It’s very encouraging to know that young travelers are considering the well-being of animals in their plans. We know that vacationers don’t want to harm wildlife. In fact, polling shows most people participate in harmful wildlife attractions because they like animals.” Josey Kitson, Executive Director of World Animal Protection Canada said in a statement: “This movement away from captive wildlife attractions is about education and working with travel companies to improve policies.”
World Animal Protection is working with some the biggest names in travel. Including the Travel Corporation (and their brands like Contiki and Trafalgar), G Adventures, Intrepid, and World Expeditions.
More than 200 travel companies have signed on to their elephant-friendly pledge.
“Unlike previous generations, millennials, and in particular Gen Z or those born after 1995, are more socially, ecologically, and empathetically aware. They have been raised to frequently call out inhumane treatment of wildlife,” said Sheralyn Berry, President of Contiki Canada.
Contiki Canada is the original travel brand to offer epic global adventures exclusively for 18 to 35-year-old’s which. Their Contiki Cares initiative works with organizations such as: Shark Savers, The Sea Turtle Conservancy and Wildlife SOS – India. “We feel it is our duty to educate young Canadians to support the protection and rehabilitation of wild animals and marine life and facilitate ethical and educational animal experiences in the destinations we visit.”
More Work Needed
There is still a lot of work to do to raise awareness about ethical travel. The KANTAR poll shows that even though the number of people who thought swimming with dolphins was not acceptable dropped by 8%, more than half still think it is acceptable. The same poll shows that although there were some increases in countries that would boycott tour operators promoting the use of wild animals in entertainment, responses from China and India showed a high percentage would still go anyway.
In 2014, G Adventures removed all harmful animal activities from tours including elephant riding, and has since incorporated a strict animal welfare policy.
“At first there was push back from travelers who wanted a specific experience and couldn’t get it, and staff had to understand and explain why we were no longer offering such activities,” noted Jamie Sweeting, G Adventures Vice President of Social Enterprise and Responsible Travel, “but over time they have come to appreciate our stance.”
How To Get Involved
World Animal Protection has created an animal friendly pocket guide to help people make informed and compassionate travel decisions to ensure no animals were harmed on their trips