Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Tourist industry acknowledges implications of animal protection

Posted: 24 November 2005

Tour operators and travel experts say tourism must not exploit wildlife

Plans to serve wildlife at an ‘exotic buffet’ for the New Year opening of Chiang Mai Night Safari in northern Thailand have been dropped, after strong protests from animal welfare groups round the world. Visitors to the park’s Vareekunchorn restaurant were to be offered wildlife such as lions, tiger, zebras and elephant from Kenya on the menu.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) applauds the decision as it highlights the importance of animal concern in the tourist industry.

ADI campaigns director, Tim Phillips, said: “This outrage would potentially not only have harmed Thai tourism but also encouraged wildlife trafficking in a region which already has severe problems in this field. Tourists are thankfully very sensitive to these issues, and our supporters would certainly not travel to a country where animals are seemingly valued so cheaply. Wild animals deserve to live in the wild and not be eaten as a mere tourist attraction. More and more tourists are questioning the treatment of animals at holiday destinations and tour operators need to respond”.

Rob Davidson, Senior Lecturer in Travel and Tourism at University of Westminster confirms this view: “This would put Thai tourism on the map for the wrong reasons and the Thais would have done themselves a great disservice as they have a lot of good will in the international community and this would have squandered it. People feel strongly about animal rights and the industry knows it.”

On its website leading travel operator First Choice acknowledges that animals often feature in attractions and as part of excursions in destinations. Dermot Blastland, First Choice Board Director with responsibility for sustainable development, comments: “Leisure travel companies – particularly the larger operators - have lagged behind UK business in taking environmental and social concerns seriously. Now there is a growing commitment to do that. At First Choice we are starting to integrate our work in this area into the very core of our business.”

Exodus, winner of last year’s Responsible Tourism Award for best tour operator, provides a framework for Responsible Tourism on its website and asks travellers never to buy products that exploit wildlife or aid the destruction of species or their habitat or to buy souvenirs made from endangered species, like ivory; as doing so will only encourage the trafficking.

Dr Harold Goodwin, Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism, University of Greenwich, said: “I believe this year has been a watershed as responsible tourism is being adopted by the wider tourism industry.”

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