Travel Companies Put Kindness Before Profit in Animal Tourism - Planet Ark Environmental Foundation

Travel Companies Put Kindness Before Profit in Animal Tourism

By Elise Catterall  April 20th, 2017

Most tourists who visit captive animal attractions do so with little or no awareness of the detrimental impact on the animals involved. Now travel companies are taking a stand.


Global tourism is a multi-billion-dollar industry and some of that money goes towards cruel and unethical animal tourism. Most tourists who visit captive animal attractions do so with little or no awareness of the detrimental impact on the animals involved.

This form of tourism may soon be a thing of the past as travel industry heavyweights – including industry leader Thomas Cook – are putting an end to the sale of tickets to a wide range of cruel or unethical animal attractions and activities.

This action comes in response to efforts spearheaded by World Animal Protection, which included a petition with nearly 175,000 signature. Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook’s CEO stated “Our industry has not changed fast enough. By taking these attractions off sale, we are sending a message that we won’t accept anything less than full compliance with the welfare standards our customers would expect.”

The move by Thomas Cook is important because of the sheer influence the industry juggernaut wields, but they are not the first travel company to take a stand. In 2014, Melbourne-based Intrepid Travel was the first travel operator to cease selling elephant rides and visits to captive elephant attractions outright and United Kingdom-based STA halted all tour operations involving elephants and numerous other animals.

In 2016, in response to World Animal Protection’s Tiger Tourism report, New Zealand’s First Travel group banned tiger tourism in addition to banning elephant attractions.

Last year, global travel website TripAdvisor also took a stand by stopping the sale of tickets to all animal attractions, except for those with educational and conservation value, like aquariums and zoos. TripAdvisor took their stand further by partnering with animal rights organisations to ensure appropriate standards are met for the attractions they promote.

Now travel companies are recognising the rights of wild animals – including elephants, tigers, lions, bears, and turtles – in large numbers. Over 100 companies have banned elephant rides since Intrepid Travel’s pioneering stance in 2014 and over 160 companies signed World Animal Protection’s recent pledge to ban all elephant attractions globally. It is hoped that the sheer numbers of companies taking this ethical position will put pressure on the other travel companies who are still yet to commit to these measures.

World Animal Protection has played a critical role in increasing awareness of animal cruelty – in tourism and in general – and in bringing about these massive industry changes. They speak out loudly against animal abuses but they also acknowledge and applaud positive examples in the industry - those businesses that actively care for the welfare of their animals - including many sanctuaries that have rescued abused animals. They also acknowledge that while the travel industry may have created the problem of animal cruelty in tourism, it is now becoming the solution.

Positive Actions


Travel Weekly

Huffington Post

The Telegraph (UK)

Intrepid Travel 


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By Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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