VIRGIN HOLIDAYS TO BECOME WORLD’S FIRST LARGE TOUR OPERATOR TO OFFER BEST-PRACTICE WILD WHALE AND DOLPHIN WATCHING
Virgin Holidays has committed to transform its wild whale and dolphin watching experiences into some of the most responsible in the world. Through collaboration with the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), Virgin Holidays suppliers will work towards meeting newly developed global best-practice guidelines. This project is a first of its kind and shows Virgin Holidays pioneering spirit by leading the way in supporting responsible tourism in the wild whale and dolphin watching industry.
Whale and Dolphin watching in the wild is a $2 billion industry with over 13 million tourists participating each year. Whale watching tourism provides platforms for research, conservation, and environmental education, but can also lead to disturbance, habitat displacement and even physical injury to cetaceans when poorly managed.
By committing to this two year process with the WCA, Virgin Holidays will reduce any impacts on wild cetaceans and the environment, enhance the quality of associated tours and customer experiences, encourage vital research, and foster a greater interest in viewing cetaceans in the wild.
Dylan Walker, CEO of the World Cetacean Alliance, said: “We are delighted to be working with Virgin Holidays on this exciting project. The outcomes will ensure that Virgin customers will benefit from high quality and responsible whale and dolphin watching experiences with these incredible mammals.”
What is best practice for wild whale and dolphin watching?
Best practice for whale and dolphin watching includes guidelines, ethics and ideas that ensure cetacean watching is conducted in a manner that:
- Minimises negative impacts on cetaceans and the environment;
- Results in high levels of customer satisfaction;
- Positively benefits local communities and the environment; and
- Educates and inspires the public and the wider tourism industry.
This announcement is complimentary to Virgin Holidays’ ground-breaking partnership with Baltimore Aquarium to help facilitate the relocation of seven bottlenose dolphins from an indoor pool into a seaside sanctuary.
Joe Thompson, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays, said: “We strongly believe the way tourists interact with captive whales and dolphins needs to change – and have been engaging with existing suppliers to improve their product offering and encourage a move away from theatrical shows. Today we’re pleased to announce our second focus – which is working with the wider industry to develop alternative forms of tourism that place a greater prominence on the welfare of these animals.”
Main image © Miranda van der Linde/ Azores Whale Watching Futurismo