BANGKOK, 24 February 2015: Exo Travel, a regional tour operator with offices throughout Southeast Asia, has removed tour content from its brochures and websites that offered visits to schools, orphanages and other child welfare centres.
The company said in its February newsletter to travel trade partners that the decision was made, following reports from child welfare organizations on the negative impacts.
The company has also removed tours and sightseeing involving elephants in Siem Reap and the Angkor temple complex.
“Having such incredible and enormous wild animals restrained for many hours under the strong sun without shade, used only for riding all day long, prevented from grazing and often mistreated, this is something that we no longer want to be a part of,” the company’s statement read.
The decision to end all elephant rides and tours covers the company’s catalogues across Southeast Asia. However, executives said they were working with local communities to fast track alternative revenue sources from tourism.
The company noted that its ban on the sale of elephant tours and rides will be activated gradually to allow villagers develop alternative revenue sources.
It will continue to recommend centres that provide elephant rides, but they must demonstrate that they treat elephant well under skilled supervision.
Exo Travel CEO, Olivier Colomes said: ‘We don’t believe that abruptly stopping all elephant rides is a solution. This could be even worse actually as these activities provide some poor communities with essential revenue for their families and without which they would no longer be able to feed and treat their elephants properly.
“We are looking instead at partnering with elephant NGOs and care centres, to define best tourism practices for elephant camps in Southeast Asia and train them on how to develop alternative activities for tourists.’
It has set out criteria for judging which centres are treating elephants well.
Elephants would be available for rides for just a few hours of the day, avoiding the hottest hours and limited to just two average weight adults per ride.
Trips would not be extend beyond one hour without a stop long enough for the elephant to graze and rest preferably near to a source of water as they need to drink at least 200 litres of water a day.,
Exo Travel says it will select only centres that meet strict assessment guidelines developed by the EXO Foundation and based on “Elephant Caretakers specialists.”