Dr Tom Moorhouse, a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford University revealed results of a survey that asked 3,200 respondents from Australia, the UK, Canada, the USA and China how much they would like to visit 10 mock animal attractions.
Five of the attractions included negative animal welfare practices while the other five were responsible outfits.
The research showed that the largest percentage of respondents wanted to be involved in good animal welfare practices but a free-type box at the end of the survey saw many ask why such information wasn’t publicly available.
“There is a huge appetite for consumers to be better informed on this,” Moorhouse said.
The panel agreed that NGO campaigns could be a solution to the issue, but that the situation was complex.
Xavier Font, professor of sustainability marketing at the University of Surrey, said as well as campaigning, a three-pronged approach was required.
“We need to delete the worst, work with the best and train the rest,” he said.
Jane Edge of Fair Trade Tourism, an organisation promoting responsible tourism in South Africa, said: “It makes a difference in some markets but the Indian and Chinese markets are not as sensitive to these messages and plenty of attractions still thrive off them.”
The survey corroborated Edge’s point showing that of those surveyed, the Chinese expressed the most interest in visiting the unethical animal attractions. When asked if they agreed with the statement: “If these attractions were bad for animals they wouldn’t be able to exist”, 80% of the Chinese respondents agreed, compared with 30% from the UK, Australia and Canada.
The panel also agreed that more collaboration was needed to solve the problem. Thomas Cook’s group sustainability manager, David Ville, said that it wasn’t just an issue for travel associations.
“They are not the only route to success. Look at other sectors such as food and beverage, issues are solved by independent business collaborating for the benefit of their customers. Travel businesses are not collaborating enough in solving the issues in our shared supply chain. There needs to be consistency between companies and it should be easier for businesses to take action on animal welfare.”
Font said there had been much progress in raising awareness around animal welfare but that there was still a long way to go.
“I think there is a key opportunity for the first inbound tourism association to say that in its country all animal attractions are responsible and to promote themselves on that basis,” he said.