Travel Agents

Virgin Holidays leads by example in sealife tourism

Hannah Edensor

Hannah Edensor

UK holiday company, Virgin Holidays, has taken a stand against tourism that benefits from captive sea life such as whales, dolphins and porpoises, which are collectively known as cetaceans.

The company has committed to ceasing the sale or promotion of any new attractions or hotels that feature these captive creatures for theatrical or entertainment purposes, and is partnering with leading animal welfare organisations to spread the word far and wide.

Urging other travel companies to follow suit, managing director David Geer said, “We believe that business should be a force for positive change. Virgin Holidays is committed to a constructive, ongoing relationship with our current suppliers who care for captive cetaceans and will work closely with them to raise standards across the board.

“However, we believe the way tourists interact with captive whales and dolphins needs to change and we want to play an active role in supporting this transition.”

Publishing its ‘Virgin Pledge on Sea Mammals’ in 2014, the company committed to only working with facilities that agreed to not take animals from the wild.

Virgin Holidays today published an updated position on their pledge, which states:

  1. Not add any new attractions that feature captive whales and dolphins for any entertainment purposes to the Virgin Holidays portfolio – with immediate effect;
  2. Work with existing partners to encourage evolution of their product offering to reflect changing consumer tastes and ensure compliance with recognised animal welfare standards;
  3. Support the creation of coastal sanctuaries for whales and dolphins and promote conservation in their natural habitats through a six figure donation supporting Virgin Holiday’s long term vision for captive cetaceans in tourism
  4. Increase promotion of responsible wild whale and dolphin watching and coastal sanctuaries;
  5. Support international co-operation to end the capture of wild cetaceans and discourage the building of new attractions where cetaceans will be used for entertainment purposes.

The latest initiative has been warmly received by leading tourism attractions and prominent cetacean charities including The Born Free Foundation, WDC and the World Cetacean Alliance whose Honorary President is renowned oceanographer and environmentalist Jean Michel Cousteau.

Cousteau said, “Virgin Holidays announcement clearly sets out its vision for the future, seeks a collaborative approach, and identifies mechanisms to solve the many challenges facing whales and dolphins in tourism today.

“Too often this issue has lacked a catalyst for change from within the tourism sector. I believe that all whales and dolphins deserve the chance to feel the ocean, interact in the natural environment, and utilise their extraordinary sense of sound in ways they could never do in captivity.

“Today’s announcement is a very important milestone in our journey towards that goal.”

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