TBEX Dolphin Tours Cancelled In Cancun.

TBEX Cancun

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.

Dolphinarium

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.

New Developments.

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.

Related Articldes

Dolphin Tours Cancelled At Mexico Travel Conference (Article In The Guardian).

How To Make Your Gap Year Responsible, Ethical And Sustainable.

Why I Won’t Be Attending TBEX Cancun.

Wildlife Tourism Ethics And Practices Debate: A Response To TBEX.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, freelance travel writer and founder of Bemused Backpacker. He is also a charge nurse by vocation with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine, but his real passion is travel. Since finding his wanderlust a decade ago in South East Asia, he has bounced from one end of the planet to another and has no intention of slowing down.

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Posted in Responsible Travel
46 comments on “TBEX Dolphin Tours Cancelled In Cancun.
  1. bretlove says:

    Thanks for including us Mike. One note, though: Cancun is still currently offering TBEX bloggers a chance to tour Delphinus, the captive cetacean facility.

    Although the tour does not offer a chance to swim with dolphins, it’s still not a place we want to see people promoting unless they do their diligent research on the effects such places have on captive cetaceans.

    TBEX Cancun Keynote Speaker Dr. Martha Honey and her staff at the Center for Responsible Travel are crafting a statement on the topic now, and will be sending it to the TBEX and Cancun CVB folks soon. I’ll keep you in the loop as the story develops.

    • Any time Bret, that is exactly why I said there is still work to be done. I look forward to reading Dr Honey’s statement and hopefully we can get them to stop promoting ALL dolphin tours, activities and excursions. They have pulled the activities from the TBEX events, now it is time the Cancun tourism board pulled their support and promotion for them completely.

  2. Dan says:

    Great work from you and everyone involved! TBEX’s attitude and response has been shameful throughout this whole thing, and they should be even more ashamed now! Cancun have made this decision for them because of the protest against dolphin activities and TBEX STILL aren’t responding!

  3. alicesgapyearadventures says:

    Wow this is an amazing result! Well done on getting them to stop the dolphin tours, I’m sure the dolphins would appreciate it. 🙂

  4. sandalsdownunda says:

    Great work! It’s a start, and whilst there is still more that can be done, it’s good to see the power of the crowd at work.

  5. IndianaJo says:

    So, so well done in your lobbying Mike and covering this important story here. Yep, there’s definitely still work to be done. Apart from the obvious (social media promotion etc.), let me know if there is anything specific I can do to help…

  6. TheBohoChica says:

    Great news & well done to you & everyone else who was campaigning against these tours!

  7. Emma Mann says:

    So great! See what happens when we put our passions to work? Keep up the great work Mike 🙂

  8. Ayla says:

    Well done Mike, you and everyone else involved clearly raised a storm that made TBEX take notice and obviously it’s paid off. There are so many things like this that happen all over the world and I feel like I’m constantly signing petitions – it’s heartbreaking. It’s a breath of fresh air though that so many people obviously feel the same way as you. Keep doing what you’re doing as it seems to be working!! 🙂

  9. globalmouse says:

    This is such brilliant news Mike. Well done, it was so worth all the hassle you got for this. I hope this is just the start of the turn of the tide as more people realise why captive dolphins are so wrong. I hope you feel happy for the part you’ve played in bringing this more attention though, it’s brilliant. Bring on change!

    • Thank you, I totally agree it was well worth all the hassle and abuse. I don’t think I’m very popular with those at TBEX at the moment either! ;D I really hope you are right, and that things will start to change. A large part of that change is raising awareness, and that is something we have done a lot of too, so yes I am more than happy! Still plenty more to do though!

  10. alliblair says:

    Good for you, Mike! I remember reading your numerous posts informing others of the unethical tactics TBEX was hosting this year in Cancun. Great job! You must be so elated to hear this news 🙂

    • Thank you Alli, I am! It’s a big win! TBEX still haven’t made an official response though!

      There is still more to do yet, Cancun are still advertising and running the unethical tours and it is my hope that we can eventually get them to stop altogether. That is a much bigger fight though!

      For now at least this battle has raised awareness far more than I hoped when I wrote my first article on it, and now the powers that be at TBEX and the Cancun tourism board are aware of just how large and important an issue this is to so many people.

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  11. Annika says:

    I am so happy that the end result was that the dolphin tour will not be a part of TBEX. Of course would be better if they didn’t operate in the first place, but baby steps, baby steps.. It was great to see, however, how the issue was brought to the attention of many bloggers and hopefully ‘regular’ travellers as well. I would be curious to now what is going on now between the Dolphin tour organizer and Cancun tourism board..!

    • Me too Annika! As you say, baby steps though. I think that the both travel bloggers and our audiences have been made more aware of this issue through this, and TBEX and Cancun have definitely been taken aback at the backlash they received! I’d be pretty curious to know that as well though, but given the fact that up until now those at TBEX have been nothing but beligerent at the backlash and now there is stoney silence, I’m guessing they are nursing their wounds a little and feeling rather foolish. And I have a feeling they will be a little more proactive in their choices of venue in the future. Thanks so much for the comment. 🙂

  12. Sandra says:

    Very well done. It’s a lot of work but we have to continue to raise awareness. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Pedro says:

    The power of the masses working. Well done for the people who fought to raise awareness!

  14. Brianna says:

    Well done to you Mike as well as some of our other fellow travel bloggers. Its only by raising awareness that we can promote ethical and sustainable tourism practices.

  15. Eva says:

    Great news! I’ve been attempting to educate travelers to the area for years on various travel forums about swimming with dolphins (and touching the reef, but that’s another topic). As long as tourists want to pay big dollars to do this, I don’t anticipate it going away any time soon. We’re talking about a country with a tradition of bull fighting. Don’t get me wrong – I love Mexico and will probably live in Merida one day.

    I’m still not going to TBEX.

    Disorganization on this level is ridiculous – it should have all been ironed out after Toronto. Post-FAM trips were announced Friday less than a month from the show – when do they think people are booking flights? The week before? For both Keystone and Toronto I missed out on great FAM opportunities because they were announced so late.

    I keep checking the site to see if they are even mentioning transportation options between Moon Palace and other hotels.

    • I think a lot of the reasons tourists are still willing to pay money for them is a sheer lack of awareness and education on the issues involved. One of the things this campaign has highlighted is just how little awareness there is around wildlife tourism in general and captive dolphin tourism in particular. That is the reason the fight isn’t just going to stop here, and I’m hoping that this campaign will have helped increase awareness, even just a little.

  16. Baskets Life Travel says:

    Well I totally missed this whole thing since we have been traveling since May, so I am just catching up now. Bravo on standing up for what you belive in. I think the biggest problem is so many people are afraid to voice out loud what eveyone else is thinking. I think it is especially great that you got something changed. Well Done. Sadly I am not sure how much impact it will have on the tourist world as a whole – but a good place to start. My family lives in the Florida keys and it is the same, dolphins, turtles, touching the reefs, taking lobsters and crabs out of season, or more than your limit; it is sad that people act this way. I won’t be in Cancun as I am going to Tbex i Athens (much closer for me) But I will keep watching. 🙂

    • Thanks, I agree that it won’t change things overnight, but it is a good start! The lack of awareness out there is truly shocking, but I know this campaign has made a lot more bloggers and travellers aware of the issues, and perhaps more importantly it has given the Cancun tourism board and TBEX – as a travel industry leader – a huge wake up call to say these unethical tours aren’t right. There is still a long way to go yet I completely agree, but the tide against unethical wildlife tours IS changing, however slowly. That is why we need to keep pressing the attack now.

  17. Els says:

    Congratulations to all who supported the boycott! Brilliant victory, you can be really proud of yourselves that you showed the world that animals are not there “for the pleasure of humans”! Great to see what responsible travellers are able to achieve!!

  18. The Bohemian Diaries says:

    Great news, Mike! It’s encouraging to positive outcomes and steps being taken in the right direction after such efforts! Congrats to you and all of your fellow supporters of this boycott, this will really lay a foundation for how not only how TBEX decides to do things in the future, but for many other organizations as well.

  19. fcortezhector says:

    It’s always great to hear when people get together for a cause and have their voices heard. Congratulations to you and everyone involved.
    I didn’t know much about the subject but will read the other posts to understand it better.

    • Thanks Hector, there is plenty of information in the links below or on my partner Care For The Wild International’s site. Feel free to ask any questions too, always glad to raise awareness on the issues involved.

  20. Angela Anderson says:

    Great work here. I read your first article and learned so much. I agree with your stance and am so glad there was progress!

  21. theegetawaygal says:

    Way to fight for something you feel so passionately about. This goes to show that voices are heard when when people come together and work for positive change!

  22. stephanielathom says:

    I remember reading your first article on this and it really opened my eyes! Seriously well done to you and everyone else! I’m really glad you got a result!

    • Thank you Stephanie, still a long way to go to convince Cancun to stop running the tours altogether and raise awareness in travellers to stop them from supporting the places that run these unethical activities, but it’s a great start!

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