In this post, we provide access to an article referring to the project “Animal and Responsible Tourism” and its sister project “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services” in Aamulehti (Finnish newspaper). The article “Animals have enormous value in tourism” was written by José-Carlos García-Rosell and Tarja Salmela and published in Finnish in the June 11, 2017. The article was triggered by our reflections after participating in the Finnish Human-Animal Studies seminar “Valuable Animal” organized by the Finnish Society for Human−Animal Studies in April 2017.
In the article, we draw attention to the value of animals for the tourism industry. For example, we draw attention to the fact that the brand of many destinations are based on animals such as a bull (Spain), reindeer (Finland), panda (China) and Kangaroo (Australia). Also tourism companies used animals as part of their brand value. Moreover, animals play an essential role in the travel experiences of many tourists. A trip to Africa are usually associated to a safari. Similarly, when thinking of Iceland, one think of whale watching or horseback riding.
Tourists are not indifferent to the treatment of animal used in tourism. More and more tourists are interested in the well-being of the animals they get in touch with. Indeed, Animal welfare is a growing concern in the tourism industry. Global tourism companies like TUI and TripAdvisor have already taken these concerns seriously and are working towards better animal welfare practices in the tourism industry.
The Matka Nordic Travel Fair is organized every year in Helsinki, Finland. It counts with more than 1000 exhibitors from 80 different countries. As an event, the Matka Nordic Travel Fair offers an excellent space for discovering new products, services and business partners. It is also a place for spotting trends and issues shaping the global tourism industry. This year animals seemed to play an important role in the fair. Their presence could already be felt in the main entrance of the fair, where a lion was showing the way in.
Animals in the spotlight
Not only images of animals could be seen in the marketing material available in the Fair, but also many animal-based tourism services were promoted in the event. For example, Visit Uganda and Tanzania were promoting animal encounters as one of their main tourism offerings. In addition, several panel discussions, which took place during the Fair, drew attention to animals and their welfare. In one of the panels organized by Mondo travel magazine, Helena Egan from TripAdvisor highlighted how TripAdvisor is taking responsibility for making their customers aware of animal-related ethical questions. The significance of animal welfare in tourism was also addressed in Finnish television in an interview with JC García-Rosell and Maria Hakkarainen from the Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI), University of Lapland.
Animals in Matkatieto-seminar
Animals and their welfare were also included in the programme of the Matkatieto-seminar. JC García-Rosell from Animal Tourism Finland delivered two presentations in the seminar. While one presentation focused on discussing “the certification of animal welfare in tourism”, the other presentation offered some facts about “the economic role of animal-based tourism services in Lapland”. The presentations captured the attention and interest of tourism researchers, tourism practitioners and the media.
The presentations were based on research conducted by Animal Tourism Finland. After the presentations, JC García-Rosell was interviewed by Saara Rantanen from MTV3 News. The topic of the interview was tourism trends in 2017. More detailed information about these studies will be provided in future posts. So, stay tuned!
At the end of 2016, Animal Tourism Finlandlooked back at some of the major animal tourism stories. TripAdvisor stopping the selling of tickets to attractions that involve physical contact with wild animals or endangered species and Sea World San Diego announcing that 2016 will be the last year of theatrical killer whale experience. These initiatives show how companies are listening to their customers and redesigning their animal-based services according to their customer values. As Joel Manby, CEO of SeaWorld said “The main point [for this decision] is we are listening to our guests”.
Also in Finland, we have seen that the topic of animal welfare in tourism has been in the news lately. While the case of Särkänniemi’s dolphins was among the top stories in the media, animal tourism related stories have constantly been in the news. For example, news about how the husky safaris are gaining popularity among Asian tourists and discussions around the development of wolf tourism in Lieksa. Also Tytti McVeigh (Finnish Association for Fair Tourism) in a interview given to Talouselämä recently observed that Finnish tourists are becoming more and more interested in animal welfare.
These developments in the tourism industry are not isolated from the rest of society. In fact, they are happening due to changing values in society.
Animal-friendly consumer values
In a study published in the Journal of Biological Conservation in 2016, it was reported how the attitudes of Americans towards animals has changed during the past decades. Similarly, a study conducted with Chinese university students in 2010 showed positive attitudes and opinions toward animals welfare initiatives. These studies are indicative of growing concern for the welfare of animals both wild and domestic. These developments have been reflected in the media. For example, South China Morning Post reported last December on China’s growing animal rights movement and Newsweek closed the year with a report on society’s increasing positive views of non-human animals. As consumer, humans are beginning to see non-human animals as individuals with personalities, preferences and rights.
Human-animal relations in the spotlight
The importance of human-animal relations were also addressed in the traditional New Year’s Speech of the President of Finland. President Sauli Niinistö referred to these relations when citing Director Juha Hurme “People, animals and plants, all from the same root, made of the same matter”. He then continued by reflecting on his encounter with Sulo Karjalainen “the bear man”. As President Niinisto said “Sulo Karjalainen looks at a bear and the animal looks at him, face to face. Do they understand something, even a lot, about each other? Humanity or animality, both creatures of nature”.
The Finnish Animal Welfare Act is under reform. There are plans to acknowledge the intrinsic value of animals in the new Finnish Animal Welfare Act. The intrinsic value of animals refers to the value an animal possesses in its own right, as an end-in-itself. From this perspective, animal welfare becomes a question of protecting animals, rather than simply evaluating the morality of human practices toward animals. The Dutch Animal Welfare Act recognized the intrinsic value of animals in 1981.
“The values of animals” will be discussed in the up-coming Animal Studies Conference organized by the Finnish Society for Human−Animal Studies in April 24.-25, 2017 in Helsinki. Animal Tourism Finland will take part in the conference. The event will be an excellent forum for discussing the value of animals for tourism companies and tourists.
The year 2017 will be a year full of exciting discussions on animal welfare. Some of these discussions will be related to tourism and Animal Tourism Finland will definitely be part of them!