UK trade association Abta is among three finalists for the Tourism for Tomorrow Innovation Award with its global welfare guidance for animals in tourism.
Abta head of destinations and sustainability Nikki White described the project as “challenging”, saying: “We’re a travel association. Why would we work on animal welfare?”
She explained: “It’s not something we had a lot of experience in but we saw a lot of consumer feedback and it has had a lot of media attention. Members asked us to work on it.
“So we looked at the statistics. In the UK, one in four customers have some sort of interaction with animals on holiday. It may not be the reason people go in holiday but it’s an enormous number.
“More than half (52%) of consumers said they would be put off a destination if they saw an animal being mistreated.”
White said: “We tried to broker agreement between two ends of the scale – the travel industry and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to provide a set of minimum standards.
“These are voluntary at this stage, not part of our code of conduct.” But she added: “Our members who have signed up to them carry up to 19 million customers a year.”
White said Abta had resisted NGO pressure to pull out of working with attractions where animal welfare was poor.
She said: “Customers will still go. What happens to the animals if you just withdraw? We wanted to work with attractions to raise standards.
“It can be challenging working with NGOs who say ‘What is the point of monitoring and working with attractions?’ But we won’t just leave.
“Now we are rolling out the guidance. It’s challenging but we’ve started and it is a process.
“We’ll take on feedback and look at what to do next. We’ve seen 52 attractions make improvements already.”
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