Virgin Holidays believes making an “abrupt” decision to take whale and dolphin attractions off sale would “minimise its ability to exert positive influence”, while Tui has confirmed more audits.
The remarks follow Thomas Cook’s recent decision to take SeaWorld off sale next year. The operator acknowledged “changing public attitudes towards animal welfare”, noting 90% of Cook customers were concerned about the issue.
TTG approached Tui and Virgin Holidays to hear their stance – both continue to sell SeaWorld.
A Virgin Holidays spokesperson reiterated that “the way tourists interact with whales and dolphins needs to change”.
“In order to be a force for positive change we have launched several initiatives aimed at evolving industry standards,” they said.
This includes a commitment not to sell or promote any new attractions or hotels featuring captive whales and dolphins, a partnership with the World Cetacean Alliance to launch global guidelines for wild whale watching and a “significant investment” in a project from The National Aquarium of Baltimore that will relocate captive dolphins to coastal sanctuaries for the first time.
“An abrupt decision to take attractions featuring whales and dolphins off sale doesn’t address the needs of those currently in captivity, and would minimise our ability to exert positive influence,” the spokesperson said.
“There are currently no viable alternatives for captive whales and dolphins, which is why our pioneering investment in the project from The National Aquarium of Baltimore to relocate captive dolphins to coastal sanctuaries is so important – and we hope it will pave the way for more natural, humane environments for these animals in the future.”
Tui cited its collaboration with Abta to launch “the first global welfare guidance for animals in tourism” and engagement with suppliers of all its animal excursions “to publicise the guidelines and to begin the process of auditing”, claiming to be the first tourism company to do so.
“We commit to work only with excursion venues which agree to work to this guidance and we are implementing an extensive and independent audit programme of the venues we feature to ensure that welfare standards are being upheld in line with them,” said the spokesperson.
“As a result many excursion venues have made improvements to their animal welfare practices, and we have withdrawn from sale any that do not.”