A “shockingly high” number of the world’s travel trade associations have been exposed as lagging in providing animal welfare guidelines to travel companies.

The majority of associations are doing nothing to prevent wildlife cruelty in tourism, research commissioned by World Animal Protection from the University of Surrey shows.

The study research shows that there is “need for improvement” by Abta.

“This is because Abta’s guidelines are seen as the de facto industry standards, but at the same time are considered vague, inconsistent and while designed to inform members, lack enforcement mechanisms,” World Animal protection claimed.

The study found that:
• Just 21 of the 62 travel trade associations researched had a page on their websites on sustainable tourism.
• Of these 21 travel associations, only six are communicating anything at all about animal welfare.
• Out of the six, only two travel trade associations and one tourism standard setting body had animal welfare guidelines or criteria as part of their sustainability programmes. These three included; Abta, Anvr – Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators – and Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
• Only one travel trade association (Anvr) is doing any monitoring of its members to check if they implement guidelines or not.
• Sixteen associations in both their literature and on their websites featured promotional pictures of wild animals, in many cases being cruelly used to interact with tourists.

Nick Stewart, head of wildlife not entertainers at World Animal Protection, said: “This is a systematic problem that needs to be addressed to ensure wild animals are not used for cruel tourist entertainment.

“Travel associations must step up, take action and commit to protecting wildlife.

“Following these research findings, we hope that travel associations will review their animal welfare guidelines.

“These associations must listen to their members and use this as an opportunity to lead the travel industry to fully commit to protecting wildlife.”

World Animal Protection is calling on travel associations to:
• Set strong animal welfare guideline for their members and to monitor these to promote animal friendly tourism
• Categorise elephant-riding and all other direct interaction between wild animals and tourists, and any forced performance with wild animals, as unacceptable.

More than 1.6 million people and over 200 tour companies have signed World Animal Protection’s animal friendly travel pledge, and travel companies committing to stop selling or promoting venues that offer elephant rides and shows.

This signals there is a demand to phase out cruel wildlife attractions, like elephant riding, dolphinariums, and tiger selfies.

Abta destinations and sustainability director Nikki White said: “Abta and its members take animal welfare very seriously.

“We welcome WAP’s recognition that Abta is leading the way on animal welfare among the global travel industry, however we don’t agree with their assessment of the guidelines.

“Abta developed the industry’s first ever guidelines for animal welfare in global tourist attractions to provide a framework for our members and businesses to achieve good standards of animal welfare. The guidelines are specific about unacceptable and discouraged practices, as well as minimum requirements.

“Good progress has been made by UK travel companies in recent years and the industry continues to learn and respond as new issues and evidence come to light.

“Many Abta members are using the guidelines to develop and implement animal welfare policies, and take action such as assessing attractions, including animal welfare standards as part of supplier contracts, carrying out independent audits and working with local suppliers whose livelihoods rely on the tourism industry.”

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