Animal interaction workshops go online
The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) has collaborated with South African Tourism to introduce online publication consultation workshops focusing on animal interaction.
According to SATSA, the educational workshops are part of its animal interaction initiative, which seeks to develop ethical guidelines for animal interactions in the tourism sector.
Responsible and ethical tourism in relation to animal interaction can be a mine field of contrasting views, with some tourism organisations lacking guidelines on how best to approach activities such as elephant rides, lion or tiger cub petting, dolphin performances, walking with lions or cheetahs, ostrich riding, etc.
Last month, a 55-year-old man was severely injured when his arm was mauled by a lioness, at a Virginia lodge in the Free State, according to Netwerk24.
In November, a 27-year-old photographer from Gluckstadt, near Vryheid, had a lucky escape after he was attacked by a lion on the loose in the area.
Keira Powers, chairperson of the SATSA Animal Interaction Committee, says: "SATSA has been tasked by its members to develop guidelines for animal interaction and captive wildlife in tourism. There are diverse perspectives on how to interact with animals and we want to assist our members with a clear set of guidelines.
"The voice against tourism experiences that include animal interactions has grown louder and louder, and this has impacted on how SA is being perceived as a tourism destination."
The online video sessions include a questionnaire aimed at gauging and assessing tourism experiences that incorporate animal interactions.
While there are global guidelines, it's important to design a framework that specifically speaks to Southern Africa's economic, social and ecological circumstances, notes Powers.
SATSA is a member-driven association that represents inbound tourism services companies in Southern Africa. The organisation provides support to members who require key services and benefits on a local, regional level and at international trade shows. It also lobbies on issues associated and affecting the inbound tourism industry.
The online workshops follow 10 public consultative workshops held over the past two months across the country, where SATSA released its research findings and provided the public and members of the tourism industry with the opportunity to give their input.
The organisation says it is now making the content of the animal interaction workshops available online for comments and suggestions by interested parties.
Although SATSA has taken on this endeavour, it points out it is acting as an impartial arbiter seeking an ethics-based solution, by the tourism industry, for the tourism industry.
The information acquired from the workshops and the questionnaire, along with further research (including analysis of legislation and regulations, consultation with key organisations, market and trends assessments, among others) will be used to develop guidelines.
Interested parties can watch this video, followed by a questionnaire to provide feedback and suggestions.