How Live-Animal Attractions Benefit Everyone — Including the Animals — As Long as They're Humane
Not that long ago, picking a hotel was a fairly uncomplicated — even downright boring — affair. Travelers made choices based on price and location, checked in, hoped for a clean, quiet room and a soft bed, and paid their tab in the morning — hopefully satisfied and likely to return on the next trip.
Today, as the hotel industry has become super-competitive with international mega-mergers, narrow profit margins, and customers facing an overwhelming array of brands and choices, it’s no wonder that savvy hospitality industry providers are scrambling to stand out and differentiate themselves from the rest.
DoubleTree famously offers warm chocolate chip cookies to its guests. Others offer concert and entertainment venues or special loyalty programs. But some of the most compelling draws that smart hotels around the world are offering would-be guests are experiences, like the opportunity to see, interact with, and learn about remarkable animals they would never otherwise meet “in person.”
People love animals, and they will travel considerable distances to see and interact with them. Some 700 million people — nearly 200 million of them in the U.S. alone — go to visit zoos and aquariums annually, which is more than the number of people who go to NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB games combined. In more than a few cities, zoos and aquariums serve as the main driver of tourism dollars.
According to a study commissioned by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, people who visited zoos and aquariums spent an additional$2.4 billion before and after their visit to surrounding businesses. In Memphis, for example, two-thirds of out-of-town visitors — more than 300,000 — went to the city primarily to visit the Memphis Zoo, according to a University of Memphis study.
This translates to a boon for hotels that incorporate animal activities in their facilities or have close relationships with local zoos and aquariums. And by offering experiences that appeal to people's love for animals, these hotels aren't just doing well; they are also doing good, helping to drive dollars and support to major zoological institutions that, in the face of disappearing habitats and accelerating extinctions, have taken up a leadership role in rescuing and preserving the Earth's remarkable and endangered species.
More and more people are rightly demanding that animals in human care be treated well and that their welfare is ensured. To do this, American Humane recently created the Humane Certified™ program, the world's first independent, third-party certification effort solely dedicated to verifying the well-being of animals in zoos, aquariums, and marine life parks.
The program helps ensure that institutions caring for these animals adhere to comprehensive criteria created by the world's leading animal scientists and ethicists covering more than 30 areas, including good health, housing, social interactions, space, humane treatment, environmental quality, physiology, sound levels, treatment protocols, activity levels of the animals, and more.
For instance, Dolphin Quest, which partners with Hilton Waikoloa Village hotel on the island of Hawaii and Kahala Hotel & Resort on Oahu to offer swim-with-the-dolphins experiences, has contributed more than $3.5 million in funding, resources, and field support to vital marine mammal studies on-site and around the globe.
Visitors to Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage can see firsthand the majesty and beauty of bottlenose dolphins, rare tigers, and other animals. The exhibition, education, and research facility partners with major universities on research that benefits all animals.
And Hotel Botanico in the Canary Islands offers a portal to Loro Parque, a 33-acre zoo and marine park that is renowned for its conservation work with endangered species and was just voted “The Best Zoo in the World” by TripAdvisor.
World-class resorts are realizing that when done right, animal-themed tourism and interactive programs benefit everyone — including the animals, who receive good care and gain passionate new advocates dedicated to their cause and survival. After all, people won't protect what they don't love ... and they can't love what they don't know.