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Expedia Stops Selling Vacation Experiences with Captive Whales and Dolphins

The change reflects the company’s new animal welfare policy.
By Melissa Smith | Updated On November 19, 2021
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Expedia Stops Selling Vacation Experiences with Captive Whales and Dolphins

Performing dolphin

Expedia users will not be able to purchase shows for animal performances effective early next year. Olga

Travel booking site Expedia is stopping the sale of vacation packages that include experiences with or performances by captive whales and dolphins.

The company recently announced changes to its animal welfare policy, which sparked the discontinuation of selling these types of experiences with cetaceans.

The Expedia website also states that, on its tours, the company does not allow “intentional physical contact with wild and exotic animals,” including dolphins and whales.

Travelers can still book cetacean-focused experiences through Expedia if they meet the company’s welfare standards.

“Seaside sanctuaries that provide captive animals with a permanent seaside living environment are allowed if they are accredited and do not feature interactions or performances,” the website reads.

The operations that will be most affected by this change will be those like SeaWorld parks in Florida, California and Texas and any attractions that allow guests to swim with dolphins or otherwise interact with captive cetaceans.

The new welfare policy comes as a result of pressure from animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and World Animal Protection. PETA and WAP campaigns encouraged concerned citizens to contact Expedia’s president Jon T. Gieselman, flooding his office with messages that called for the policy change.

“[Expedia’s decision] is a significant step towards ending dolphin cruelty and making this the last generation of dolphins and whales in captivity for entertainment,” Cameron Harsh, a programs director for World Animal Protection, says in a statement.

With this change, Expedia joins a growing list of companies that have also ceased SeaWorld ticket sales, including TripAdvisor, WestJet, AAA, Virgin Holidays and Southwest Airlines. There are still many reservation sites that allow travelers to purchase park tickets and packages that feature SeaWorld as the main attraction.

"Travel companies play a huge role in driving captive dolphin entertainment and as one of the largest travel companies in the world we are delighted that Expedia Group are making a stand,” Katheryn Wise, a campaign manager for wildlife at World Animal Protection, says in a statement. "It's time for other travel giants like TUI to do the right thing and follow suit."

PETA has campaigned to free SeaWorld’s captive orcas since 1998, with the organization even suing the park on behalf of the animals in 2012.

SeaWorld’s faced major public criticism following the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which led to widespread exposure of how the park’s treatment its captive orcas led to their extreme psychological distress. One year after the film’s release, SeaWorld’s stock had declined by 33 percent, and in the four years following, the parks saw an 11 percent decline in attendance.

SeaWorld has defended itself rigorously, calling out discrepancies in Blackfish and highlighting its marine science programs.

"With rising threats to our oceans and their inhabitants, supporting independently accredited zoological facilities is more important than ever,” Dr. Chris Dold, chief zoological officer at SeaWorld, said in a statement after Virgin Holidays announced it would stop selling park tickets in 2019. “No company does more to protect marine mammals and advance cetacean research, rescue and conservation than SeaWorld.”

Expedia Group is rolling out the change to its booking site and intends to have the process completed by early next year.