The boycott of TBEX because of its support and promotion of dolphin tours and excursions in Cancun has had a resounding success, with Cancun pulling any dolphin experience as part of any pre or post TBEX experience!
This is an amazing win for all those who have been involved in campaigning against these activities, but there is still a lot more to be done yet.
A bit of background.
A quick update first for those of you who may not be fully up to date on the issue, way back in July I published my first article on the issue Why I won’t be attending TBEX Cancun. I explained that I could not and would not attend – or be represented by – an organisation or event that supports and promotes such unethical wildlife activities, and Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt also published Help stop the promotion of unethical tourism (boycott TBEX!) and started a petition to try and get TBEX to stop their support of the unethical dolphin tours and remove them from their programme.
These articles caused a huge debate that blew up across various social media and caused an outcry that forced a response from TBEX that was not well received.
Since then, many people have contributed to the debate and the campaign to boycott TBEX. So many people have written about or emailed TBEX and the Cancun tourism board it would be impossible to list them all, but they all played a huge role in bringing this issue to the level it is at now. Care For The Wild International released an official statement on the issue and Ethan Gelber from Outbounding.org also hosted a live Google hangout debate which involved myself, Diana Edelman from D Travels ‘Round, Chris Pitt from Care For The Wild International, Alison Hood from the Born Free Foundation (all of whom have written about and campaigned for animal welfare and ethical wildlife tourism issues for a long time), and Rick Calvert from TBEX. The debate gained such controversy that it was even picked up by the national press and media including Wildlife Extra and The Guardian amongst others.
A big win for the boycott.
To me this just proves how successful the boycott has been, and shows just how much the effort and work put in by so many travel bloggers and organisations has paid off.
The boycott wasn’t something everyone agreed with – and I can understand that – but it was a huge catalyst in bringing the organisers of TBEX to the table and holding them to account for their choices and decisions. The subsequent row and debate that evolved from the boycott allowed for a discussion to take place, frankly I think it is highly unlikely there would have been any discussion at all if the powers that be had not been forced on the defensive. The boycott has also served as a prime shock and awe tactic to raise the profile of the issues involved to the national press, and raise awareness of dolphinariums and unethical wildlife tourism practices not only to those travel bloggers and writers attending TBEX, but also travellers and backpackers in general.
Bret Love of Green Global Travel was one of the bloggers and speakers at TBEX this year who disagreed with the boycott, but as a long term campaigner on sustainable and ethical tourism did agree with the general stance against unethical dolphin tours and activities and has also campaigned for the end to their inclusion in TBEX. Through working toward the same goal by using different tactics, the fight was also brought to the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau.
With the huge furor over the boycott already giving the Cancun Tourism board and TBEX negative publicity and putting them both on the defensive, a further campaign of negative press from a string of high profile travel bloggers with a huge combined audience was something they could ill afford.
As of the 12th August 2014, the PR rep from the Cancun Convention and Visitors Beureau stated that:
“It has been disheartening that some people have put so much energy into just one of the MANY wonderful activities we are offering bloggers as part of the pre- and post-TBEX experiences. We truly hoped that each writer would visit the destination, experience the offerings themselves and report freely on what they’ve seen here… Because this is but a small fragment of a comprehensive tourism offering, we want to move on from this topic so we can focus on the agenda at hand, which is to put on a conference where bloggers and industry professionals can share ideas and best practices and, while they are at it, get a first-hand look at Cancun’s offerings. To do so, we have stopped offering these dolphin experiences as part of any pre- or post-TBEX experience.”
Basically speaking, they are pulling all the dolphin tours and activities from the TBEX conference!
It was a save face response, one where they knew they had to back down but didn’t want to admit they were wrong. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, it is a win!
Unfortunately there is still no official response from TBEX, but I will update this if and when they do come out with something.
What happens next?
Frankly this is a huge win, all those who have been involved in this campaign at whatever level have done a huge job in getting the unethical tours and activities removed from TBEX roster, and also in raising awareness on a large scale.
But our work is far from over yet.
Cancun – just like many places around the world – still offer dolphinariums and dolphin tours and a variety of other wildlife activities that exploit and harm wildlife and their natural habitats.
It is my hope that now we have put this issue firmly on the table travel bloggers and writers can work closely with the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau and events like TBEX to raise awareness among travel professionals and the wider public about how and why these activities are bad, and also to promote the variety of ethical and sustainable tourism options that the region has to offer instead.
It is my hope that now the issue has been forced to the front of everyone’s agendas at TBEX and Cancun, we – as travel bloggers and writers – can show tourism providers and professionals that there is a better way. We can show them that there are better options than relying on mass tourism activities that exploit and harm wildlife and the environment, and that ethical, sustainable tourism can be just as – if not more – profitable than the unethical kind.
Hopefully we can eventually put an end to unethical dolphin tours and activities altogether.
Update: There has still been no official response from TBEX, other than them simply repeating the Cancun Tourism Boards statement on their Facebook page, which is a huge shame. My guess is they just want the embarrassment to blow over as quickly as possible. There has however been another article in The Guardian which covers the cancellation of the dolphin tours at Cancun, and has a quote from myself as well as the many others who were involved in this campaign, which you can read here.