Tripadvisor has finally announced that it is to end its practice of selling tickets to cruel and unethical wildlife attractions, but is it too little too late? And is it enough?
Tripadvisor, the once proud review site and now the ultimate shill of the travel industry has not had the best of reputations amongst many travellers for a long time now, not least of which because it actively promoted and sold packages or tickets to unethical and abusive wildlife attractions. Not only that, but the sites arrogant stance of blatantly ignoring calls from wildlife charities and campaigners to end the promotion of these attractions often infuriated those who campaigned for ethical and responsible wildlife tourism, and negated a lot of awareness raising of the issues involved by continuing to foster greenwashed narratives to tourists who did not know any better.
Now Tripadvisor has finally announced that it is ending the practice of selling tickets to cruel animal attractions.
It is about damn time. But is Tripadvisor going far enough?
In a year that finally saw the end of the viciously cruel Tiger Temple in Thailand, Seaworld ending its Orca breeding programmes and shows after intense public pressure, awareness of irresponsible wildlife attractions such as elephant riding at an arguably all time high, and even ABTA working with major tourism providers such as STA travel and Thomas Cook to promote a more ethical approach to wildlife tourism, a more cynical eye may see this move as nothing more than a marketing stunt, as a way to greenwash it’s credentials to appease some of the campaigners for responsible wildlife tourism and appeal to a growing public awareness and demand for responsible alternatives.
This would – on the surface at least – appear to be the case, since they seem to be being very selective with the choice of which unethical attractions they are ceasing to sell tickets or packages to, and there are still a number of irresponsible wildlife attractions that they are still taking bookings for..
Perhaps worse than that however, is that they are still refusing to stop supporting irresponsible and unethical attractions altogether, and are still essentially promoting attractions and industries that abuse and exploit wildlife for tourists pleasure by allowing the site showcasing and reviews to continue.
Tripadvisor has stated that it is planning a wildlife education portal for some attractions, and is working with animal welfare groups, charities and organisations such as the the Association Of Zoos And Aquariums and World Animal Protection to work on a list of exemptions to this rule for attractions such as zoos, petting zoos and facilities that are both responsible and educational.
If this is the case then I am absolutely in support of that. After all wildlife attractions when run responsibly, ethically and for the care and benefit of the animals involved can be a good thing. Zoos for example are a vital part of responsible wildlife tourism and wildlife conservation and responsible, ethical attractions should be promoted and supported.
But whilst Tripadvisor still allows reviews and promotion of a whole smorgasboard of irresponsible wildlife attractions as well, any promises of ‘ending bookings’ are completely empty and are nothing more than greenwashing. Likewise, statements of the new policy being implemented by ‘early 2017’ remains to be seen, as this is a policy that should have been done a long time ago and can be implemented with immediate effect.
I welcome the fact that Tripadvisor is finally pulling its collective finger out and is saying it will live up to its responsibility to end promotion of unethical and irresponsible wildlife attractions, but until it does so completely, fully and with immediate effect, I will take these promises with a grain of greenwashed salt and I urge each and every one of you who reads this to hold them to account. Keep asking them why this policy is not yet fully in place until it is, keep asking them why they are still promoting a lot of unethical practices, keep up that pressure and make sure that they live up to their promise.
Responsible tourism should never be a marketing gimmick. Responsible and sustainable travel is something we should all care about and all practice.
What do you think about Tripadvisors announcement? Did you welcome it or like me are you skeptical? I’d really love to hear all your opinions and thoughts on this issue in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.