Making Dutch travel agencies aware of animal-unfriendly traveling

In this file photo, German tourists ride on top of an elephant that will carry them to and from the famous Amber Fort Jaipur in India.You want to ride on the back of an elephant in Thailand or India? Cuddle a tiger cub in South Africa? Or eat a whale steak in a restaurant in Iceland? Until fairly recently you could easily book excursions that included these activities with most of the travel agencies and tour operators in The Netherlands.

But now, they might not be as apt to recommend such morally suspect activities.

Starting this week, the Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR) is offering its members training to better understand animal welfare issues in travel and tools to discourage travelers from partaking in activities that are unacceptable from an animal welfare and/or species conservation perspective.

Over the past two years, IFAW has been a member of a working group led by the ANVR. Together with two other NGOs (World Animal Protection and SPOTS), we developed materials and provided expertise  to the ANVR and key members like TUI, a large Dutch tourism company, on how to take animal welfare into account when offering activities, tours or excursions at holiday destinations. We created easy-to-use “dos and don’ts” for travel agents and offered alternatives for people keen on seeing animals.

This week, at the annual Holiday Fair in Utrecht, the ANVR will begin training the first group of travel agencies. After the training those agencies will be able to contribute to a better life for animals and avoid unacceptable and discouraged activities.

I am very pleased and proud that we were able to get the ANVR and many of its members to embrace the idea that animal welfare is paramount to sustainable tourism, that wild animals should remain wild and are best admired in their natural surroundings.

Many tour operators and travel agencies are giving up easy earnings in order to benefit animal welfare and a sustainable future. That’s not an easy thing to do, and we should complement them for it.

At the same time travelers should remain critical to excursions involving animals and ask their travel agent if their excursions are in compliance with the ANVR guidelines for animal welfare.

--RR

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