Tour operators' role and agency in communication of animal welfare issues

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Animal welfare groups like World Animal Protection have campaigned for animal rights for more than 50 years, including the treatment of elephants and use for tourist rides in Thailand. As a result, some tour operators stopped offering elephant rides; however, tourism arrivals in Thailand have doubled since 2010 and the number of captive elephants has increased by 30%. Furthermore, 40% of tourists from Thailand’s main markets are still engaging in elephant activities like rides. In general, tourists lack knowledge of ethical standards of wildlife tourism attractions and are not equipped to assess them. Although news articles and online discussions may have helped to shape and increase tourists’ awareness of animal welfare issues, as well as the (mis)treatment of elephants in the Thai tourism industry, the role of the tour operator in communicating such issues is unclear.
Questions this research explores are: If tour operators support the ‘no ride’ campaign and work with organisations like World Animal Protection, how then do they communicate this to their (potential) clients via their website? Furthermore, if a tourist is looking for information on holidays in Thailand, would they find information on animal welfare issues with regards to elephants? And if they do, what do they find? To answer these questions, tour operators’ websites are analysed with regards to their travel products, travel advice, and CSR information. Initial research reveals that even though tour operators may not offer elephant rides, they demonstrate different types of agency when it comes to informing or educating tourists. Such agency ranges from a proactive role in providing information regarding elephant rides and the non-availability of them in the tour operator’s offerings, to a more passive approach with no information throughout the search and booking process but embedded in general CSR information. Results offer insights into best practice on how to communicate ethical issues regarding elephant rides to enable tourists to make informed choices.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019
Event9th International Conference on Tourism: Tourism into the new decade: challenges and prospects - Hotel Parque Bom Jesus, Braga, Portugal
Duration: 26 Jun 201929 Jun 2019


Conference9th International Conference on Tourism
Abbreviated titleICOT2019


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