The industry’s first global welfare guidance for animals in tourism has been produced by Abta in conjunction with the Born Free Foundation.
The guidelines have been further developed through a consultation process with industry experts, association members, scientists, zoologist organisations, associations and non-governmental organisations from around the world.
They aim to tackle bad practice and improve animal welfare standards throughout all sectors of the tourism industry.
Tui Travel, Thomas Cook, Virgin Holidays and Cosmos have committed to using the guidelines to assess their supply chains and to ensure that the attractions that they offer meet the minimum requirements.
The guidance sets a benchmark for minimum requirements in animal welfare for the tourism and animal attractions industries globally.
The aim is to encourage these businesses to achieve good standards in animal protection and welfare and ensure customers have positive experiences when visiting animal attractions.
Abta will also send the guidelines to destination governments and tourist boards and it is hoped tour operators will pass the guidelines on to attractions.
Head of destinations and sustainability Nikki White said: “Animal attractions and experiences are a common part of holidays and are generally very popular with holidaymakers.
“Yet research and experience demonstrate that consumers want to be assured of good welfare standards in animal attractions.
“There are currently no international animal welfare standards so our members asked for our help in developing a set of guidelines that could help them assess which attractions to work with.
“Many animal attractions already adhere to very high standards but standards can vary hugely from country to country. While we recognise that change will not happen overnight, we believe the guidelines are an exciting and innovative first step towards improving animal welfare standards and experiences for holidaymakers.”
She told Travel Weekly that social networks meant consumers had more chance to highlight concerns with attractions features animals.
She said that 60% of attractions feature some kind of animal interaction, and the guidelines had been "years in the making".
She said research revealed that more than half of those who see animals mistreated would not return to the destination as a whole.
The guidelines include sections on captive animals (in zoos or animal parks), dolphins in captivity, elephants in captivity, working animals, wildlife viewing (safaris) and guidance on the minimum standards.
Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free Foundation, said: “Concerned members of the public contact us in their thousands, distressed about what they often witness while on holiday.
“Now we have Abta’s Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism and the weight of the UK travel industry to promote best practice, encourage higher standards in animal care and help phase-out some of the worst forms of animal exploitation quickly and effectively. I hope they will be adopted internationally.”
The guidelines are available for members on abta.com.