Young Consumers Prefer Ethical Wildlife Tourism

BY Rachel Cagle
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World Tourism Day, celebrated on September 27 around the world, shines a light on the social, cultural, political, environmental and economic impact of this trillion-​dollar industry. And as young travelers become increasingly aware of these impacts, it is influencing their travel choices for the better.

Riding elephants, swimming with dolphins and taking selfies with wild animals, including tigers and sloths are all tourist activities that cause harm to animals. Yet most tourists have been taking part without knowing the effect it has on animals or ecosystems. These animals often suffer abuse both mentally and physically to make interactions with tourists possible. Evidence shows though that once tourists understand the cruelty involved, they will make a different decision.

For example, a 2017 KANTAR global poll shows a significant drop of 9% (to 44%) in the number of people who find elephant riding acceptable compared to just three years ago. The poll also shows that more than 80% of tourists would prefer to see animals in their natural environment, proving animal-​friendly tourism is on the rise. The trend is even more pronounced among young, millennial (aged 18–35) travelers.

Jennifer Yellin, Senior Vice President at Northstar, a research firm that recently conducted a series of traveler focus groups for World Animal Protection observes, "There is a relationship between age and travel activity choice when it comes to animal welfare. For example, people under 35 are more aware of animal cruelty issues. This age segment, more so than older travelers, voice greater interest in seeing animals in their natural habitats rather than forced interactions like swimming with dolphins."

"It's very encouraging to know that young travelers are increasingly considering the well-​being of animals in their plans. We know that vacationers don't want to harm wildlife, in fact polling shows that most people participate in harmful wildlife attractions because they like animals. This movement away from captive wildlife attractions is about education and working with travel companies to improve policies," says Josey Kitson, Executive Director of World Animal Protection Canada.

According to AudienceSCAN, 27.2% of Animal Cause Supporters have spent time exploring nature last year and would like to do so again in the coming year. About 32% avoid buying from companies whose values conflict with their beliefs, so they're likely to do some research while planning their next trip. They're 25% more willing than other adults to be willing to sacrifice some privacy to get ads that are relevant to them and, last year, 57.4% used a search engine to research a product or service they were considering for purchase. However, only 19% will go past the first page of results. Google is the preferred search engine of 88.8% of this consumer group.

World Animal Protection is working with some the biggest names in travel including the Travel Corporation (and their brands like Contiki and Trafalgar), G Adventures, Intrepid, and World Expeditions. More than 200 travel companies have signed on to their elephant-​friendly pledge. 

"Unlike previous generations, millennials, and in particular Gen Z or those born after 1995, are more socially, ecologically, and empathetically aware. They have been raised to frequently call out inhumane treatment of wildlife," says Sheralyn Berry, President of Contiki Canada.

However, there is still work that needs to be done when it comes to raising awareness of ethical travel. For instance, the global poll from KANTAR shows that even though the number of people who thought swimming with dolphins was not acceptable dropped by 8%, more than half still think it is acceptable. And the same poll shows that although there were some increases on countries that would boycott tour operators promoting the use of wild animals in entertainment, countries such as China and India's response showed a high percentage would still go anyway.

"In 2014 G Adventures removed all harmful animal activities from tours including elephant riding, and since has had a strict animal welfare policy.  At first there was push back from travellers who wanted a specific experience and couldn't get it, and staff had to understand and explain why we were no longer offering such activities, but over time they have come to appreciate our stance. G Adventures continues to participate in World Animal Protection's coalition on ethical wildlife tourism and is proud of our approach to assessing all potential tour experiences against comprehensive animal welfare criteria" adds Jamie Sweeting, G Adventures Vice President of Social Enterprise and Responsible Travel.

Nature-​based vacation locations can advertise their stance on animal rights digitally. According to AudienceSCAN, 52.1% of Animal Cause Supporters took action after receiving email ads last year and 41.2% clicked on text link ads on websites. This group is also 26% more likely than other adults to find advertising on their mobile apps useful to them and, last year, 45.2% took action after seeing ads on their mobile smartphone apps or after they received text ads. Traditional formats shouldn't be overlooked in advertising campaigns though. Last year, 67.7% took action after seeing a TV commercial and 63% were motivated by ads/​coupons they received via direct mail.

AudienceSCAN data is available for your applications and dashboards through the SalesFuel API. Media companies and agencies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.