Agents have expressed their support for SeaWorld’s decision to stop breeding killer whales at its parks and using them in “theatrical” shows.
The whales currently in its care will be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld. All breeding officially ended last week after the operator, which has three parks in the US, began moving away from its captive breeding programme in November.
The 2013 documentary Blackfish led to protests and an attempt in California to ban orca performances and, ultimately, their captivity.
Kim Evans, who owns Premier Travel in Rainham and is a self-confessed “Orlando junkie”, said: “Recently the parks have been much emptier and I think it has a lot to do with the issues raised. By showing a bit of humanity, SeaWorld will draw people back in.”
Other agents described SeaWorld’s decision as “great news” and “long overdue”, with one agent stating she is now happier to sell SeaWorld. However, some suggested the industry “still has a long way to go”.
SeaWorld will introduce “natural” orca encounters as part of an “ongoing commitment to education, marine science research and rescue of marine animals” in its San Diego park next year, followed by San Antonio in Texas and then Orlando in 2019.
Tony Seaman, co-owner and group sales and marketing director at Attraction World, added: “Customers can vote with their feet. I think it’s an incredible organisation in terms of [overall] animal care, both in the parks and elsewhere, but this has affected the park and it’s probably right to change what it does.”
President and chief executive of SeaWorld Entertainment, Joel Manby, said: “We are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals.
“As society’s understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it.”
Annabel Cove, head of trade sales and marketing at DoSomethingDifferent.com said: “SeaWorld remains one of our most popular attractions and we have experienced significant sales growth in the early part of 2016.
"Agents continue to pass on extremely positive feedback about the fantastic rides, attractions and educational elements offered by the parks, with their conservation work especially valued by agents and their customers.”
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