Market trends for animal-friendly tourism activities

Experiences with animals are a popular activity and make up for a significant part of the tourism sector, as an estimated 2 to 4 million tourists a year engage in activities with wildlife. Experiences with animals in tourism vary from the observation of animals to more immersive activities of interactive nature. Animal suffering in wildlife tourism is common, as animals are often exploited to maximise profits. However, there is increasing consideration for animal welfare used in tourism by tourists, which has created a consumer demand for truly animal-friendly tourism activities.

Attitude-behaviour gap

The problem is that it is difficult to make the right decision for animal-friendly attractions since poor animal welfare is not always obvious, it is hidden from view. Moreover there is an attitude-behaviour gap between awareness and attitude towards animal welfare in tourism among tourist.

Find the right information

How can we identify whether a tourist attraction with animals is animal-friendly, or not? There is no easy answer to this question. However, creating awareness of the issue at hand and informative guidelines can be a way to aid people to identify animal-friendly activities. Awareness can be generated by tour operators, travel agents, guides and other stakeholders. For instance, the Dutch Travel Association ANVR has set up a list of do’s and don’ts for travellers who wish to participate in an activity with wildlife. World Animal Protection has formulated a guide to being animal-friendly on holiday. This information allows tourists to make conscious decisions in wildlife tourism.

Development of animal-friendly activities

Animal-friendly alternatives and solutions are emerging as a result of increasing consideration for animal welfare in the tourism sector. For instance, animal acts in circuses are replaced with 3D projections. International tour operators stop offering elephant rides and promote elephant friendly alternatives, such as observation of elephants. The public support for the prohibition of captivated dolphins and whale species is emerging in The Netherlands and Belgium. The wildlife tourism industry is developing into more animal-friendly practices with the increasing concern for the wellbeing of animals among tourists.

This blog is written by NHL Stenden master student Liesanne Lieverse.

Do you, as an operator in the tourism and leisure industry, wish to raise awareness and develop animal-friendly practices? Akke Folmer, an expert in human-nature relations, can support you in this.