A travel media conference has decided to drop dolphin experiences from its programme following pressure from travel bloggers and wildlife campaigners.
The TBEX 2014 conference, which is due to take place in Cancun, Mexico, in September and is attended by travel bloggers, writers and industry experts, had been criticised for offering attendees the opportunity to go on two tours at the Delphinus Dolphinarium.
While TBEX organisers had refused to drop the tours, telling the British newspaper “The Guardian” they would not be “bullied into cancelling a tour by a small pressure group”, the Cancun tourist board – who offered the tours to TBEX in the first place – made the decision to retract them after being contacted directly by responsible travel blog Green Global Travel.
In a statement posted on the Green Global Travel site, the Cancun tourist board said they were “disheartened” that so much attention had be placed on “just one” of the activities they are offering at the conference.
“We want to move on from this topic so we can focus on the agenda at hand,” said spokesperson Paula Gomez, “which is to put on a conference where bloggers and industry professionals can share ideas and best practices and, while they are at it, get a first-hand look at Cancun’s offerings.”
“To do so, we have stopped offering these dolphin experiences as part of any pre- or post-TBEX experience.”
Wildlife charity Care for the Wild International, which runs the RIGHT- tourism campaign for animal-friendly tourism and has previously spoken out against TBEX’s decision to offer the tours, described the decision as “a start”.
“The messages and morals of this story are unclear,” said Chris Pitt, campaigns manager for the charity. “TBEX felt it was their right to offer the tours, and Cancun have cancelled them because of the adverse publicity. Neither of those policies scream ‘we’re concerned about the dolphins’. But it’s a start. What this campaign has shown is that keeping dolphins captive for people’s entertainment is no longer something that should be blindly accepted.”
The decision to drop the tours comes after a period of sustained online campaigning and discussion among the travel blogging community. Travel writer Matthew Kepnes launched a petition in July, while also calling on people to boycott the conference. Online forumOutbounding.org was also active in bringing the debate to a wider audience.
Mike Huxley, who runs the Bemused Backpacker blog, has also been vocal about getting the tours cancelled. He praised fellow bloggers and writers for raising awareness of the issues surrounding dolphinariums and wildlife tourism.
“It has been a huge catalyst in bringing the organisers of TBEX and other relevant providers to the table and holding them to account,” he said. “It is my hope that travel bloggers and campaigners can now work alongside the Cancun tourism board and events like TBEX … and show them and the world that there are better options than relying on mass tourism activities that exploit and harm wildlife.”