Recent Polls Show A Decline In Younger Travelers Visiting Attractions That Exploit Animals; Instead They Choose Eco-Tourism

September 27th was World Tourism Day; a time to shine a light on the social, cultural, political, environmental, and economic impact of this trillion-dollar industry. Fortunately, everyday, young travelers are becoming increasingly aware of these impacts and it is influencing their travel choices for the better.

Riding elephants, swimming with dolphins, taking selfies with wild animals, including tigers and sloths, are all tourist activities that cause harm to animals. Yet, most tourists have been taking part without knowing the effect it has on animals or their ecosystems. These animals often suffer abuse both mentally and physically when they interact with tourists. According to research, once tourists understand the cruelty involved, they will make a more compassionate choice.

For example, a 2017 KANTAR global poll shows a significant drop of 9% to 44% in the number of people who find riding elephants acceptable compared to three years ago. The poll also shows that more than 80% of tourists would prefer to see animals in their natural habitat, proving animal-friendly tourism is on the rise. The trend is even more pronounced among young, millennial (aged 18-35) travelers.

“It’s very encouraging to know that young travellers are increasingly considering the well-being of animals in their plans. We know that vacationers don’t want to harm wildlife. In fact, polling shows that 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 ExpeditionsMore 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, the original travel brand to offer epic global adventures exclusively for 18 to 35-year-old’s which, through its Conki Cares initiative, works with organizations such as: Shark Savers, The Sea Turtle Conservancy and Wildlife SOS – India“We feel that it is our duty to educate young Canadians in an effort to support the protection and rehabilitation of wild animals and marine life and facilitate ethical and educational animal experiences in the destinations we visit.”

However, there is still work that needs to be done when it comes to raising awareness about ethical travel. For instance, the global poll from KANTAR 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. And 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 countries such as 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.”

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

Travelers can learn more about ethical tourism and receive a guide by taking the pledge to be an animal friendly tourist HERE!

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