The association representing British tourism has called the initiative by responsibletravel.com questioning the use of captive cetaceans in the tourism industry a “publicity stunt”, but the travel operator insists the majority of travellers oppose marine circuses.
Responding to an open letter, in which responsibletravel.com called for an open discussion with ABTA on the issue of cetacean circuses used in the tourism sector, the organisation said, “ABTA does not engage in publicity stunts, particularly those that are designed to raise the profile of commercial ventures, such as responsibletravel.com, which markets competing wild animal excursions.
“There may be a wider, societal debate to be had about the principle of animals in captivity, but while there continues to be significant public demand for these attractions and legal frameworks regulating these, we will continue to focus on engaging with the owners of attractions, with our members and with responsible NGOs to ensure there are agreed standards of animal welfare in place as well as on raising welfare standards in those elements of the supply chain that we can influence as tour operators and agents.”
The response came out after responsibletravel.com launched a petition calling on responsible travellers and travel companies to avoid attractions with cetaceans kept in captivity, while promoting whale and dolphin watching in the wild.
The travel company has hit back at ABTA, criticising its lack of engagement on the issue and noting that 86% of British travellers oppose marine circuses.
Justin Francis, managing director at responsibletravel.com, commented, “What message does this send to travel companies facing similar questions from customers and indeed to the travelling public themselves? Transparency is a corner stone of responsible tourism – at the moment this is something ABTA are lacking.”
He added, “For ABTA to continue to justify these marine shows because a mere minority of tourists wants them, shows a total lack of responsibility on their part. A small minority of people want hard drugs too but that doesn’t make it acceptable for businesses to sell them.
“It’s time ABTA faces up to these facts, begins to address the issues, and provides some much needed guidance and leadership for the industry.”
Photo: Olivier Bruchez via Flickr