Animal welfare considerations mean Thomas Cook will no longer offer tickets to attractions that keep killer whales.

Trips by a major tour operator to parks featuring killer whales in captivity have been removed from sale after a review of its animal welfare policies.

Thomas Cook’s decision to stop selling tickets to SeaWorld in Florida and Loro Parque in Tenerife from next summer follows feedback from customers, as well as scientific evidence provided by animal welfare specialists.

The move comes despite the parks passing an audit by Thomas Cook 18 months earlier, when the company’s initial animal welfare policy resulted in it removing 29 out of 49 attractions, including those involving captive elephants.

Animal welfare policies

In a blog post, chief executive Peter Fankhauser explained that an addition to the company’s policies meant it would no longer sell any animal attractions that keep orcas in captivity.

He said: “This was not a decision we took lightly. We always said that we would continue to review our policy, conscious that the more we got into this area, the more we would learn, and conscious also of changing customer sentiment.”

Fankhauser acknowledged that both parks had passed the initial audit and made improvements to the way they treat animals.

He added: “We respect and applaud the work that has been done, and we will work with both over the next 12 months to prepare for our exit. We will also continue to work ourselves to identify more sustainable alternatives.”

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism is now a big consideration for tour operators, with this year’s Travel Trends Report by ABTA highlighting the role it plays in shaping holiday choices.

Most tour operators assess the suitability of their supply chains using ABTA’s Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism, which was the first of its kind in the world when it was introduced in 2013.

The rise in sentiment has also followed wildlife documentaries such as David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ — the most watched programme of 2017 — and campaigns including Sky News’ Ocean Rescue Scheme.

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