TripAdvisor Ends Sales to Attractions Featuring Captive Whales and Dolphins

Travel site expands its animal welfare policy begun in 2017

seaworld orca whales
Aquatic theme parks such as SeaWorld are affected by TripAdvisor's new ban. Getty Images
Headshot of Ryan Barwick

Travel recommendation site TripAdvisor will no longer advertise or sell tickets to any attraction that “continues to contribute to the captivity of future generations of cetaceans” by the end of 2019, the company announced today.

The banned attractions include any that keep whales, dolphins and porpoises in captivity. The site hopes the change in policy will promote animal sanctuaries, instead of aquariums and amusement parks that feature animal performers or offer in-water experiences for guests to interact with animals.

“Any commercial facility that either breeds or imports cetaceans for public display will be banned from sale on TripAdvisor or Viator,” the company said in a statement. Viator is TripAdvisor’s tour subsidiary.

A TripAdvisor representative declined to comment further on why the company has decided to take a stand on the issue now, but the ban is a continuation of the site’s animal welfare policy put in place in 2016, when it stopped selling tickets to experiences involving captive wild animals, such as elephant rides.

In 2018, the travel site expanded the policy by eliminating the sale of tickets to circuses and acts considered “demeaning” to animals.

The expanded ban affects aquatic theme parks like SeaWorld, whose image has struggled since the 2013 release of the CNN documentary Blackfish, which argued that captivity was significantly harmful to the park’s signature orca whales. In response to backlash caused by the film, the park no longer breeds orcas.

In a statement, SeaWorld’s chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, said the company was disappointed by TripAdvisor’s move, which he said ignores the “educational value and conservation mission of professionally accredited zoos and aquariums.”

“SeaWorld maintains the highest standards of care for all animals, including cetaceans,” Dold said. “And regardless of TripAdvisor’s position, SeaWorld will continue to advance education and animal conservation efforts along with our millions of supporters, professional scientists and other science-based organizations around the world.”

@RyanBarwick Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.