TripAdvisor, which could be argued as the world leader in vacation planning, advice and booking, will be ending the sale of all bookable experiences to attractions that continue to contribute to the captivity and breeding of future generations of whales, dolphins and porpoises, as well ending commercial relationships with those facilities.
Over the next few months, products currently on sale that breach their new rules will be removed from their sites with the goal of all products removed by end of 2019.
“They (attractions) would have to have made a public commitment either to cease all breeding and importation of cetaceans for display with immediate effect or to develop alternative models, such as seaside-sanctuary environments, for the population of captive cetaceans already in their care,” explained James Kay, director of corporate communications for TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor defines seaside sanctuaries as a body of coastal water, such as a bay or a cove, that house cetaceans in as close to a natural environment as possible while providing protection and oversight by qualified staff and veterinary staff. These environments must adhere to a strict no-breeding policy, must not train the animals to perform, and must prohibit all forms of physical interaction between guests and animals.
“We believe the current generation of whales and dolphins in captivity should be the last.” said Dermot Halpin, president of experiences and rentals for TripAdvisor. “Seaside sanctuaries have enormous potential but they need more backing from the tourism industry. As long as facilities with captive whales and dolphins continue to profit from keeping these animals in smaller, cheaper and less-natural living environments, then they don’t have enough incentive to adopt serious change. “
In 2016, TripAdvisor launched a Animal Welfare Policy to stop selling tickets for specific tourism experiences where travelers come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species. In 2018, they extended the policy to no longer sell tickets to shows and performances where captive wild or endangered animals are forced to perform demeaning tricks or unnatural behaviors.
While the obvious attractions such as SeaWorld and aquariums across the world first come into mind when thinking of this change, there are hundreds of small facilities across the world in tourist destinations where dolphins are kept in small pens for the purpose to give tourists rides and perform tricks. The ending of sales to these facilities is a huge deal in ensuring that the captivity of cetaceans can come to end.
Kay did confirm that major attractions, including SeaWorld would be impacted by the change.
“In the case of SeaWorld, it has committed to not breeding orcas, but has not made the same commitment for other cetaceans in its care, and therefore wouldn’t be eligible for sale under the new policy. In contrast, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is creating a sanctuary for its dolphins, so that is one example of an attraction that will still be eligible for sale,” Kay explained.
The decision sends a huge message to the tourism industry that the world is changing and the captivity of breeding marine mammals is not acceptable. Putting such intelligent living animals in pens to perform tricks for entertainment needs to end and TripAdvisor is helping to move towards that goal.