Study: Young travelers friendly to animals
Consumers in China are becoming more aware of animal-friendly tourist activities, and tour companies are changing their offerings to meet their expectations, according to new research cited by World Animal Protection on Wednesday.
The research, carried out by CTR Market Research, targeted people born between 1985 and 2000 and evaluated their attitudes toward animal friendly tourism. It found that more than 85 percent of the respondents surveyed objected to tourism activities that harmed or abused animals.
“The market signals are apparent. Animal-friendly tourism has become a preferred form of tourist activity for young consumers, both in terms of current participation and willingness to participate in the future,” said Zhao Zhonghua, director of World Animal Protection China, an international nonprofit animal welfare organization.
“Travel companies should seize this opportunity to transform and upgrade animal-related tourism products to meet market demand,” Zhao said.
The report said, for example, that in Southeast Asia there are more than 3,000 captive elephants being exploited for tourism and recreational activities. More than threefourths of them are housed in harsh environments, restrained with chains, separated from their mothers and forced to undergo brutal training.
In Thailand, for example, the number of elephants used for recreational tourism increased from 1,688 to 2,198 from 2010 to 2016, and 38 cases of injured elephants — 17 resulting in death — were reported at the same time.
“The positive thing is that more people have the sense to protect animals and are willing to participate in animal friendly tourism activities,” Zhao said.
Although respondents showed higher recognition of animal-friendly tourism, the report also showed room for improvement in awareness of whether specific activities harm animals.
For example, 42.5 percent of respondents did not realize that watching animal performances and paying to have photos taken can be abusive.
Liu Shang, 27, a Shanghai resident who claimed to have “itchy feet”, said he would ride an elephant if it’s included in the travel package, but he wouldn’t hold a grudge if such a service were not available, especially once its negative impact was known.
“Honestly, I didn’t know that riding an elephant could cause so much negative influence on wildlife,” Liu said. “Now that I know, I will only participate in activities that are animal-friendly.”
More than 190 tourism companies around the world have made a public commitment not to provide elephant rides or other wildlife performances, according to the report.
Caissa Touristic, FXtrip and Zanadu are the first three national tourism companies in China to have made the commitment.
According to Ge Mu, assistant president of Caissa Touristic, the company has called off activities such as elephant rides. Instead, it is now providing animal-friendly programs such as helping a baby elephant take a shower or using elephant feces to make recycled paper to encourage and cultivate environmental and animal protection awareness.
“Canceling the related activities had no obvious impact on our revenue,” Ge said.