The influence of knowledge on the visitors' behaviour at wildlife-tourist attractions. Can awareness hinder Western millennial travellers from visiting harmful wildlife-based attractions?

Bachelor Thesis, 2018

65 Pages, Grade: 8.00







1.1 Background
1.2 Problem analysis
1.3 Research scope
1.4 Research goal
1.5 Research questions
1.6 Brief methodology
1.7 Thesis structure

2.1 Animals in tourism
2.1.1 Animals in captivity
2.1.2 Animals in the wild
2.1.3 The debate over the ethics of animal-based attractions
2.1.4 The global scale of Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs) with poor animal welfare
2.1.5 The importance of spreading knowledge
2.2 Millennials as travellers
2.2.1 Travel trends of the millennials

3.1 Millennials as travellers
3.2 The attitude- behaviour gap of consumers
3.2.1 Factors influencing the attitude – behaviour gap
3.3 Animal ethics in tourism
3.3.1 Animal welfare assessment
3.4 Gaps in existing literature

4.1 The research goal
4.2 Research approach and design
4.3 Data collection
4.3.1 The sample
4.3.2 Content of the interviews
4.3.3 Interviews conduction
4.4 Data analysis

5.1 The reasons to visit WTAs
5.1.1 The desire for a new and unique experience
5.1.2 Love for animals
5.1.3 The strong influence of reference groups
5.2 Reluctance to harm wildlife
5.2.1 Unwillingness of negative impacts on wildlife
5.2.2 The negative feelings on animal abuse
5.2.3 The need for reassurance at the WTA
5.3 Different perceptions on good animal welfare at WTAs
5.3.1 The absence of negative impacts in the wild
5.3.2 Friendliness as a synonym of good welfare
5.3.3 The importance of the number of people interacting with one animal
5.3.4 The importance of the type of animal
5.3.5 The influence of the country and the company type
5.4 The influence of knowledge on behaviour at WTAs
5.4.1 The limited usefulness of knowing animal welfare assessment
5.4.2 The limited usefulness of sharing animal welfare assessment on TripAdvisor
5.4.3 The aversion to visit a WTA with poor animal welfare
5.4.4 The importance of spreading knowledge
5.5 Factors interfering with knowledge when visiting WTAs
5.5.1 The strong desire to visit the WTA
5.5.2 The denial of negative impacts
5.5.3 The deception of the good physical appearance of the animal
5.5.4 The difficulty of leaving once at the WTA
5.5.5 The limited change made by one visitor
5.5.6 The importance of experiencing the WTA to judge animal welfare
5.6 The influence of reviews on TripAdvisor
5.6.1 The controversial views on TripAdvisor
5.6.2 The importance of the percentage of positive reviews
5.6.3 The high influence of negative reviews

6.1 Reflection on the research goal
6.2 The importance of good animal welfare
6.3 The influence of knowledge on behaviour
6.4 The influence of reviews on TripAdvisor
6.5 Limitations of the study

7.1 Conclusion
7.2 Recommendations for future research
7.3 Recommendations for wildlife organizations


9.1 List of the 24 WTAs in the study of Moorehouse et al. (2015)
9.2 The interviewees
9.3 Final themes and sub- themes of the interviews


Figure 1: Theory of Planned Behaviour, P.

Figure 2: Barriers between environmental concern and action, P.

Figure 3: Summary of the principal findings from Moorhouse et al. (2015) presenting the impacts of 24 representative WTA types, selected across five categories, P.


Table 1: The Five Freedoms and Five Provisions for promoting farm animal welfare, P.

Table 2: Distribution of gender in the sample, P.

Table 3: Name, age & nationality and WTAs visited of the 13 interviewees, P.

Table 4: Major themes and sub- themes determined through coding of the interviews, P.


After attending the very first thesis lecture in September 2017, my confidence in being able to write this Bachelor thesis was far from high. I remember feeling both excited about starting this final paper and extremely overwhelmed, particularly because of the difficulty of finding an interesting topic to research. Indeed, the decision to write my thesis on wildlife- based attractions was not made without any difficulty and, on the contrary, it required weeks of brainstorming, of meetings with different teachers and of countless research.

The idea of the problem mostly derived from my love for animals and my personal interest for the debates over detrimental wildlife- tourist attractions. Moreover, since I had the opportunity in my life to visit some of these attractions but refrained because of awareness, I became eager to investigate whether knowledge could have the same effect on others.

Even though finding a good direction into my research was challenging, looking back at the past four months I can definitely say that they have been the most stressful, educational and rewarding of my entire career at the NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences. In fact, thanks to the chosen topic, I had the opportunity to research very interesting articles on wildlife- tourist attractions and on different aspects of human attitudes and behaviour, which was completely new to me.

Because of her expertise in human- behaviour, I chose Christa Barten as my supervisor and I believe that writing this thesis would not have been the same without her fundamental guidance from the beginning till the end of the process. For this reason, my most sincere gratitude goes to her, for all the knowledge shared and her advice.

Secondly, I would like to thank significantly all 13 people who participated in my study, who dedicated their time to join my interviews both on Skype and face- to face. This research would have been impossible without them and their honest and valuable contributions. Thirdly, I would like to thank all my friends for helping me to reach potential interviewees and for supporting me through times of difficulty.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the fundamental support of my family, not only during these four months, but throughout these four memorable and highly enriching years in the Netherlands.


Wildlife - based tourism currently represents one of the fastest growing travel sectors, expected to increase by at least 10% annually. The high demand for animal encounters is mostly caused by the soaring number of international tourist arrivals and the search by travellers for new and memorable experiences in contact with nature. Among travellers, millennials have gained particular importance in the tourism industry due to the high frequency of their journeys, the considerable amount of money spent and their quest for authentic and learning experiences while travelling. Therefore, this generation may contribute to the growing request for Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs) worldwide.

Due to the development of WTAs on a global scale, they are increasingly receiving huge criticism from animal welfare advocates because of their exploitation of the animals’ rights and poor welfare conditions. However, the alarming lack of knowledge about negative visitors’ impacts on the wildlife and about animal welfare assessment, along with the high percentage of excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, encourage tourists to indulge in wildlife encounters that are highly detrimental.

Despite lack of awareness playing a role when visiting WTAs with poor animal welfare, a study conducted by Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald in 2017 suggested that ignorance is not always responsible for unethical behaviour. Indeed, different factors such as culture, egoism and opportunity contribute to the creation of “attitude- behaviour gaps”, in which the attitudes of people to behave ethically when travelling collide with their final actions. Therefore, because of the existence of discrepancies between attitude and behaviour when visiting WTAs, the absence of global legislations and the overwhelming number of positive reviews on TripAdvisor, further research into the influence of knowledge on behaviour at these attractions is fundamental to investigate whether awareness can hinder people from taking part in these activities. Hence, this was determined as the goal of this thesis.

Due to the considerable share of millennials in tourism and the impact of culture on behaviour, only Western millennials have been considered for the purpose of this study. In connection with the aim of this thesis, the three following main research questions have been formulated:

RQ 1. How important is good animal welfare for Western millennial travellers at WTAs?

RQ2. How does knowledge influence the behaviour of Western millennial visitors at WTAs?

RQ3. How do positive and negative reviews on TripAdvisor influence Western millennials to visit WTAs?

In order to address the research questions, different existing theories have been used, including the fundamental “Theory of Planned Behaviour” (TPB) by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980), different theories on the factors contributing to the attitude- behaviour gaps of consumers and, finally, the explanation of animal welfare measurement.

In addition, exploratory research was conducted through the use of in- depth, semi- structured interviews. Thirteen Western millennials were interviewed over a period of six weeks, both face- to face and via Skype. The interviews were fundamental to retrieve information on their perceptions of good or poor animal welfare at different WTAs and on their behaviour after being informed about poor animal welfare and animal welfare assessment, as well as after reading positive and negative reviews on TripAdvisor. After transcribing all interviews, they were analysed through the system of coding.

The analysis of the interviews led to the definition of six major themes and 24 sub- themes. In regards to the major motivations for people to visit WTAs, the desire to live a new experience, love for animals and the influence of friends and family were determined as the main causes. Moreover, willingness of good animal welfare and reluctance to harm the animals were fundamental findings, since no interviewee mentioned wanting to deliberately abuse or hurt the wildlife. However, measuring good or poor animal welfare is very complex and it highly depends on the level of knowledge of the visitor and on personal perceptions. In fact, findings revealed that, in general, being in the wild, being a friendly animal, being in contact with a limited number of tourists and being located in a Western country or in a sanctuary were perceived as conditions of good animal welfare, unless knowledge proves otherwise. Knowledge is not only crucial for shaping perceptions, but it is also a fundamental influencer of behaviour. Indeed, the more people were aware of negative impacts, the more they were reluctant to visit WTAs with poor animal welfare. Moreover, in regards to the impacts of reviews on TripAdvisor, knowledge determined the way users were affected by positive and negative reviews. However, among the interviewees, no one declared to use TripAdvisor to be informed about wildlife- based attractions.

All in all, even though knowledge does have positive influences on final actions, it cannot prevent people from visiting all types of WTAs with poor welfare. In fact, different aspects like the simple desire to visit the attraction, the denial of negative impacts and the deception given by the good physical look of the animal remain major factors causing attitude- behaviour gaps within visitors.

As a result, different recommendations have been outlined for further research and for wildlife organizations. Firstly, studies regarding the attitude- behaviour gaps of visitors at WTAs, the perceptions of people on animal welfare and the effects of knowledge on behaviour are still limited; thus more research should be conducted into these topics. Moreover, social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, along with the so- called “influencers” have strong influences on the behaviour of millennial travellers. Yet, no research has been conducted regarding their efficacy in spreading awareness on detrimental animal- based attractions. Therefore, these could be fundamental inputs for further research. However, due to their popularity, wildlife organizations should make use of social media channels to inform and persuade travellers, they should use pictures in combination with content and use meaningful quotations. Finally, these associations should organize educational public events and possibly offer volunteering opportunities at WTAs with good animal welfare, since these are highly appealing and enriching for millennials.


This section of the report introduces the topic of the thesis through the provision of background information, the problem analysis, the research scope and the research goal. These are followed by the defined research questions, a brief analysis of the methodology and the description of the report structure.

1.1 Background

Because of the rising number of international travellers and their continuous search for new and enriching experiences, wildlife tourism is one of the fastest growing travel sectors, accounting for around 7% of international travel (Scanlon, 2017). Attractions based on wildlife currently constitute between 20% and 40% of tourism worldwide (Bale, 2015). However, these percentages are expected to grow in the near future by around 3%, especially in those nations in which wildlife represents a primary resource (Scanlon, 2017). This is, for example, the case of Australia, where in 2006 more than 43% of international inbound arrivals attended different Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs) (Moorhouse et al., 2015).

The strong request for wildlife interactions is mainly driven by the desire of the traveller to live unique and authentic experiences in connection with nature (Kim, 2016). Search for authenticity has become a particularly important trend in recent years, since tourists are becoming increasingly interested in interactions with locals, in experiencing local culture and spending money directly in the community (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2018). This is especially significant among millennials, a generation of explorers hungry for new experiences and further desPtions (Kim, 2016). According to The Telegraph, watching sea turtles in Costa Rica, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and cuddling a koala in Australia are among the most desirable experiences for millennial travellers (Kim, 2016).

Despite their high desirability, many animal- based attractions have recently attracted significant attention in research. In fact, if on the one hand they provide exciting tourism opportunities and can increase the appeal of a desPtion (ABTA, 2013), on the other hand they have been subjects of huge criticism from animal welfare advocates or researchers due to their unethical nature and their abuses of animals’ rights (Coldwell, 2014). Indeed, a large number of Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs) hides very poor animal welfare, enhanced by restricted possibilities of movement, cruel training processes and forced unnatural behaviour (Coldwell, 2014).

One of the latest research papers on animal welfare and conservation at tourist attractions was written by Moorehouse et al., part of the Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in 2015. The authors have thoroughly analysed the welfare and conservation criteria of 24 WTAs worldwide allowing close interactions with wildlife in the wild and in captivity. Some of these attractions include elephant riding, tigers, lions and dolphin interactions, dancing bears and monkeys, as well as snake charming, turtle farms and shark- cage diving (Moorehouse et al., 2015).

Although 18 out of 24 WTAs were declared very detrimental on the animals involved, these attractions are still very popular among tourists and draw between 3.5 and 6 million people annually (Moorehouse et al., 2015). Indeed, visitors are often unaware of the cruelty behind certain activities and, on the contrary, they generally share love and interest for the well- being of the animals involved (Shani, 2009).

1.2 Problem analysis

As mentioned, the results of the study by Moorehouse et al. (2015) revealed that the vast majority of animals at the Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs) analysed suffer very poor welfare conditions. What is even more alarming is, however, the huge lack of awareness among visitors, proved by the high percentage of excellent reviews published on TripAdvisor after their experience, even at those venues with the lowest animal welfare scores (World Animal Protection, 2018). Insufficient knowledge about poor animal welfare and detrimental visitors’ impacts, along with the abundance of positive reviews on TripAdvisor, are definitely responsible for the high demand of WTAs (World Animal Protection, 2018).Thus, many organizations are pressuring companies to ban the sale of certain activities by spreading awareness about their negative effects on the animals (Modak, 2017). However, missing global regulation standards and the rise of international tourism arrivals represent major challenges towards the decline of WTAs (World Animal Protection, 2018).

Furthermore, not all visitors are always just unaware of poor welfare or detrimental impacts at animal-based attractions, but some might not see these facts as sufficient reasons to detract from the recreation and the enjoyment provided by the WTA (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017). Consequently, in spite of the desire to act morally, the strong eagerness to participate in a certain activity might incite the traveller to visit a WTA despite awareness. The collision between a person’s attitude and final behaviour generates a phenomenon known in research as “the attitude- behaviour gap” (Bazerman & Gino, 2012, as discussed in Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017).

Peoples’ attitude-behaviour gaps have received significant attention from researchers and theorists in the fields of health or sustainable behaviour. Yet, very limited research has been conducted on the attitude-behaviour gaps of visitors when participating in Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs). According to Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald (2017), factors such as the cultural background of the visitor, being on holidays and the influence of groups or employees can contribute to the creation of these discrepancies. However, lack of knowledge remains one of the most important causes of the attitude- behaviour gap of visitors, since no ethical choices can be made without awareness (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017).

Thus, actions are needed to make sure that good animal welfare is made salient through the decision- making process (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017).

The recommendations suggested in the study of Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald (2017) specifically entail the removal of knowledge- related barriers by providing visitors with unequivocal information about the measurement of animal welfare and negative tourism impacts on the wildlife. Moreover, due to its enormous popularity among travellers, the authors suggest using TripAdvisor to spread awareness on animal welfare measurement at many WTAs worldwide, with the hope of discouraging people to visit such attractions (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017).

However, no evidence of the effectiveness of knowledge provision can be found in relation to behavioural changes at WTAs. Hence, this thesis will try to particularly follow up on these recommendations.

1.3 Research scope

Due to the vast nature of the problem, a specific scope has been defined for the purpose of this thesis.

Firstly, the focus of this research will be on millennials or generation Y. In fact, millennials are not only frequent travellers, but they are also the consumers of the future (T’Erve, 2013). Furthermore, they generally seek knowledge development when travelling and they tend to have very positive attitudes towards sustainability and ethical issues (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2014).

Moreover, since culture has a high influence on attitudes and behaviour, it plays an important role when it comes to visitors’ interpretation of good animal welfare and ethical standards at WTAs (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017). As determined by Budeanu (2007), while Western tourists, such as Europeans and Americans, are more eager to at least be informed about animal ethics, the majority of Asian tourists share the common attitude to “value the human and disrespect the animal” (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017, p. 511). For this reason, only Western travellers will be examined in this research.

Finally, because of the huge variety of Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs), only the ones examined in the study of Moorehouse et al. (2015) will be subjects of this thesis. Additionally, since different methods to assess animal welfare exist, only the paradigm of the “Five Freedoms Approach” will be considered in this research, as this was the criteria used in the study of by Moorhouse et al. (2015).

1.4 Research goal

In consideration of the research problem and research scope, the goal of this thesis has been formulated as follows:

“To research the attitude-behaviour gaps of Western millennial travellers with the aim of analysing how the provision of knowledge on animal welfare and visitors’ reviews on TripAdvisor may influence the behaviour of tourists at Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs)”.

The results of this study will be particularly useful to give recommendations for future research and for wildlife organizations which protect animals’ rights.

1.5 Research questions

In accordance with the thesis goal, the following questions have been defined. The first two main questions were further divided into different sub-questions.

RQ 1. How important is good animal welfare for Western millennial travellers at WTAs?

- What perceptions do they associate with good and poor animal welfare at WTAs?

RQ2. How does knowledge influence the behaviour of Western millennial visitors at WTAs?

- How does knowledge of negative visitors’ impacts and poor animal welfare influence their decision to visit a WTA?

- How useful is the Five Freedoms Approach as a tool to influence behaviour?

- What are the main reasons why visitors might visit a WTA despite knowledge?

RQ3. How do positive and negative reviews on TripAdvisor influence Western millennials to visit WTAs?

1.6 Brief methodology

This section will briefly introduce the methods used in this research, which will be described in detail in chapter 4. To write this bachelor thesis, both primary and secondary research was conducted.

Secondary research was particularly conducted during the examination of the context of the thesis and the review of existing literature. Many different sources were used in these chapters, including both online sources and books. Among the online sources, scientific articles, journals and e-books were significantly valuable for the analysis of literature. Furthermore, fundamental sources of information for this thesis were the studies by Moorehouse et al. (2015) and by Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald (2017).

Apart from desk research, primary research was conducted in the form of qualitative in- depth interviews. Thirteen interviews were conducted among Western millennials from eight different countries who had various experiences with Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs) worldwide.

The semi- structured interviews were conducted both face- to- face and through the use of Skype and were all recorded. Once all interviews were finalized and transcribed, they were analysed through the systems of open, focused and theoretical coding.

1.7 Thesis structure

This bachelor thesis is divided into seven different chapters. In the first chapter, background information is provided to introduce the reader to the topic of the research. This is followed by the problem analysis, the research scope, the research goal and questions, a concise insight into the methods used and the structure of the paper.

The second chapter adds information regarding the context of the thesis. The context particularly focuses on the role of animals in tourism, the debates over animal- based attractions, the global scale of WTAs with poor animal welfare and the importance of spreading knowledge. Lastly, an overview of trends occurring among millennial travellers is given to highlight the importance of the “consumers of the future” in tourism.

The context analysis is followed by the literature review. The literature is divided into three main sections: millennials as travellers, the attitude- behaviour gaps of consumers and animal ethics in tourism. Among these chapters, various theories on human behaviour and on the factors influencing inconsistencies between attitude and behaviour are central.

In the fourth chapter, the methodology used in this research is explained. The chapter is divided into four main sections, namely the research goal, research approach, data collection and data analysis. In regards to data collection, the sampling procedure, the content of the interviews and their conduction are discussed.

Following the methodology, chapter five presents the most relevant findings of the research. This chapter is divided into six sub- chapters reflecting the six main categories found through coding of the interviews. Additionally, each category is divided into a total of 24 sub- themes that address the major results of the thesis.

In chapter six, the discussion over the results of the thesis is outlined. The discussion will reflect on the research goal, the three main research questions and the limitations of this study.

Moreover, chapter seven will present the major conclusions of this paper and the different recommendations given for future research and wildlife organizations.

Finally, the bibliography and the appendix will be found in chapter eight and nine respectively.


This section of the report entails a more detailed description of the context of the thesis. This includes a deeper understanding of the involvement of wild animals in the tourism industry, the debate over the ethics of animal based attractions, the global scale of Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs) and the importance of spreading knowledge. Finally, an insight into the role and trends of millennials as travellers is provided.

2.1 Animals in tourism

In recent years, a new phenomenon consisting in the use of wildlife for tourism purposes has developed significantly and animal-based attractions are becoming increasingly popular among travellers (Hall & Brown, 2006). Indeed, the vast variety of travel opportunities along with the continuous quest for new experiences are important motivators for travellers to participate in memorable activities offering close connection with wildlife and nature (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013).

Animal encounters at tourist attractions highly depend on the species and on the setting (Holopainen, 2012). Visitors can watch animals in different environments, such as in captive settings and in the wild. Furthermore, interactions with wildlife can be both active and passive, with the former including feeding or riding and the latter including observation and photography (Holopainen, 2012). Humans can also use wildlife for consumptive purposes, such as through hunting and fishing, and for non-consumptive ones, in which, according to Duffus and Dearden (1990), animals represent the tourism experience itself (Hall & Brown, 2006).

2.1.1 Animals in captivity

Many types of facilities exist in which animals can be watched in captivity. These range from common zoos, aquariums and circuses to stables for riding, dolphinariums and crocodile and snake farms (ABTA, 2013). Additionally, other types of captive settings include travelling and petting zoos, bird centres, rural safari parks, elephant camps, rescue centres, animal sanctuaries and animals held in captivity by individuals for observation or performance motivations (ABTA, 2013). Captive animals face different challenges related to geographical location, limited spaces, unnatural living conditions, restriction of movements and, in some cases, forced unnatural behaviour through harsh trainings. For these reasons, ensuring appropriate welfare in captive settings is often challenged (ABTA, 2013).

2.1.2 Animals in the wild

Various types of wildlife-based tourism attractions exist also in natural settings and the interest for these experiences has developed a new tourism type, wildlife tourism. Wildlife tourists mostly travel to a desPtion to enjoy encounters with non-domesticated animals (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017). This market is estimated to grow by 8-10 % per year and records around 12 million trips per annum (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). Popular activities involved in wildlife tourism include safari opportunities, birdwatching, reef-diving, whale-watching and viewing of species that might be part of a project for conservation, like gorillas and sharks. Moreover, fishing and trophy hunting represent other examples of practices in which wildlife is central (ABTA, 2013). The African savannah is the most popular desPtion for this tourism type, followed by the rainforest (ABTA, 2013).

Wildlife tourism is becoming increasingly popular among tourists and it is well appreciated by desPtions. In fact, this represents a driving source for economic growth and development and many developing countries significantly rely on animal-based attractions for revenue (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). In addition, wildlife may provide employment to locals, who are often willing to acquire and transform natural areas into private reserves to attract tourists (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017).

2.1.3 The debate over the ethics of animal-based attractions

Even though animal-based attractions are mostly visited by residents, they are progressively attracting local and international travellers, to the point of stimulating more bookings of package tours if included in them (Stone, Tucker & Dornan 2007, as discussed in Shani, 2012).

The main reason behind the success of these activities is the fact that for many people they represent the only way to watch or interact with wildlife (Beardsworth & Bryman, 2001, as discussed in Shani, 2012). Advocates of animal-based activities argue that these attractions provide amusement for the visitors, education and understanding of wildlife, but also conservation of endangered species and research opportunities on medicine, reproduction and genetics (Shani, 2009). Furthermore, captivity often reduces the survival difficulties that animals live in the wild, such as hunting or territorial defence (ABTA, 2013). Last but not least, some animals obtain more economic value thanks to their role in tourism, which in turn provides them with better welfare (Kontogeorgopoulos, as discussed in Fennell, 2014).

Although wildlife-based activities or facilities might have some positive aspects, many of them have been heavily criticised and condemned by welfare organizations and academics for their abuse of the animals’ rights (Shani, 2012). In fact, a large number of attractions in which animals are captive are generally perceived as unethical due to the animal deprivation of natural habitat, destruction of families, limited room for movement, forced proximity with humans and other species, harmful transportation systems and, in some cases, inhumane training processes along with forced unnatural behaviour (BBC, 2014). Furthermore, animal encounters in the wild have received some criticism due to potential behavioural change of the animals, accidental deaths and detrimental impacts or alterations on the eco- system (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013).

The debate over the ethics of these attractions is fierce and although in many cases poor welfare is proved, their number is growing worldwide in response to tourism demand (Hall & Brown, 2006).

2.1.4 The global scale of Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs) with poor animal welfare

The debates over the ethics of Wildlife – Tourist Attractions (WTAs) have encouraged researchers to conduct further investigations into the detrimental effects of these activities on the animals involved. Fundamental in this direction is a study conducted by Moorhouse et al., (2015), part of the Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

Due to the enormous variety of attractions involving wildlife, the study by Moorehouse et al. (2015) has only selected a few attractions as subjects of their investigation. The authors have defined the Wildlife – Tourist Attractions (WTAs) in their research as follows: “attractions in which tourists anticipate close interaction (e.g. close viewing, touching, feeding, riding) with individuals of a specific, single non-domestic animal taxon, in either a wild or captive setting; and which have conservation and welfare impacts which are likely to be relatively unfamiliar to participants” (p.506). Therefore, consumptive interactions or the visit of zoos or similar are not among these attractions, as most people are aware and consentient of their impacts on the animals (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017).

The research assessed 24 types of WTAs worldwide hosting between 236.000 and 561.000 animals and visited by around 3.5 to 6 million tourists on an annual base (Moorehouse et al., 2015). The followings are among the WTAs examined: captive bear parks, captive dolphin, tiger and lion interactions; farmed wildlife attractions such as crocodile farms, turtle farms, tiger farms and civet coffee plantations; street performances like dancing macaques, dancing bears, snake charming and hyena men in Nigeria and finally attractions in the wild, including swimming with dolphins, shark-cage diving polar bear sightseeing, gibbon watching and gorilla trekking (Moorehouse et al., 2015).

Figure 3, in Appendix 9.1 summarizes the findings of this research.

The results revealed that 18 of those attractions have overall negative welfare and conservation impacts on wildlife. Therefore, only 6 attractions were confirmed to have overall positive impacts on the animals (Moorehouse et al., 2015). Findings also demonstrated that between 1.500 and 13.000 animals around the world are involved in WTAs that ensure positive impacts on them, such as rescue sanctuaries with no direct contact or any type of performance (World Animal Protection, 2018).

However, approximately 550.000 wild animals are held in captivity under very poor welfare and conservation criteria, in which separation from the mother, forced unnatural behaviour, beating and extremely limited spaces are the norm (World Animal Protection, 2018). The following attractions were named as some of the worst in terms of animal welfare on the base of the “Five Freedoms Approach”: elephant rides, taking tiger selfies, interactions with lions, bear parks, holding sea turtles, performing dolphins and monkeys, civet coffee plantations, charming snakes and crocodile farms (Snowdon, 2016).

Currently, it is estimated that about 110 million travellers visit animal-based attractions with overall negative impacts on wildlife every year and approximately 80% of them publish excellent reviews on the experience (World Animal Protection, 2018). Indeed, many of those who visit WTAs worldwide see them as amusing, entertaining and exciting experiences and are often driven by their love for the animals involved (Shani, 2009).

2.1.5 The importance of spreading knowledge

As stated by D’Cruze, Head of Wildlife Research at Oxford University, after being confronted with the overwhelming number of positive reviews on TripAdvisor, “It’s clear that thousands of tourists are visiting wildlife attractions, unaware of the abuse wild animals’ face behind the scenes” (World Animal Protection, 2018). In fact, the vast majority of visitors is unaware of the abuses on animals at certain attractions and they often cannot perceive signs of poor welfare during the activity (Bale, 2015).

The demand for animal- based attractions and the alarming lack of knowledge of visitors have pressured organizations to spread information about the poor living conditions of wildlife and the detrimental effects of tourists (World Animal Protection, 2016). As a result, many associations are advising clear guidelines on responsible behaviour towards animals when travelling on their websites, are encouraging people to spread information with other travellers and are pressuring booking giants to ban the sale of certain activities. Expedia is the most recent company to stop selling some animal based attractions on their portal in consideration of good animal welfare (Modak, 2017).

Even though efforts are leading to some positive outcomes, lack of awareness among visitors remains critical. Moreover, the absence of global regulations regarding the use of animals in the tourism industry constitutes a major challenge to the support of good animal welfare worldwide (World Animal Protection, 2016).

In addition, since international tourist arrivals peaking at 1.322 billion in 2017 are expected to reach approximately 1.800 billion in 2030 (UNWTO, 2018), a significant growth in visitors at WTAs is predicted. Among all travellers, millennials or “Generation Y” are becoming increasingly important in the travel industry. In fact, they travel more frequently and spend more money on tourism than any previous generation (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2018).

2.2 Millennials as travellers

According to the UNWTO, the generation of millennials represents one of the fastest developing segments of the international travel industry (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2018). Millennials, or generation Y, were born between 1980 and 2000 and, despite their young age, they are extremely influential in shaping tourism trends (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2018). In fact, millennials cover approximately 23% of the total international arrivals, corresponding to more than 300 million travellers, and they spent more than USD 280 billion on travelling in 2017, an average of 3.000 USD per trip (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2018).

Millennials not only represent the age group that travels the most compared to previous ones, but they are also the largest generation in terms of size (Goldberg, 2014). Furthermore, because they were born during the digital age and due to rising travel opportunities, generation Y is generally reinventing tourism worldwide (Goldberg, 2014). Indeed, young people tend to take longer trips, to travel more often and further away and around 50% of them travels for non – leisure purposes, including for studying, volunteering abroad or working (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2018).

2.2.1 Travel trends of the millennials

Firstly, using technology before, during and after a trip is fundamental for the millennial traveller (Lauw, 2017). Millennials are, indeed, the most tech- savvy of all generations and they use online sources for purposes ranging from gathering information for their trip, to actually booking and later sharing their experiences (Lauw, 2017). Particularly about the latter, studies show that 97% of millennials post and share their experiences on social media when travelling and among them, around 73% posts at least once per day (Goldberg, 2014). Sharing adventures on Facebook plays a major role when it comes to influencing other travellers; in fact, 87% of millennials declared to use the platform for inspiration (Price, 2016). Furthermore, around 80% consider online travel reviews very persuasive when making travel decisions and many travellers tend to post reviews themselves upon return (Goldberg, 2014). According to the WYSE Travel Confederation (2014), despite online reviews being important, millennials’ primary source of information remain family and friends .

Secondly, millennials tend to consider travelling as a major element in life rather than just an opportunity for relaxation (Lauw, 2017). Additionally, because they tend to associate the word tourist to mass- tourism, millennials prefer to be referred to as travellers or explorers (Santos et al, 2016). These young travellers are continuously looking for new, memorable and authentic experiences at the desPtion they visit. Furthermore, among millennials’ main motivations for travelling, interacting with locals, experiencing the everyday life, finding excitement in life and developing their knowledge are the most important (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2014).

Thirdly, due to its interest in engaging in local communities and in the preservation of the environment, generation Y is considered an important driver for sustainable tourism (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2018). In fact, millennials have an overall positive attitude towards sustainability and global issues and they spend much of their budget at the desPtion, directly in local communities (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2018).

All in all, because of their interest in travelling and in sustainable practices, millennials represent an important generation to analyse in regards to their attitudes towards animal welfare and negative visitors’ impacts at Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs).


This section of the report takes into consideration different theories concerning consumers’ behaviour through an analysis of millennial travellers and their’ attitude-behaviour gaps within the visit of Wildlife-Tourist Attractions (WTAs). Lastly, theories on animal ethics are provided to discuss animal welfare assessment and measurement.

3.1 Millennials as travellers

According to a study conducted by Hume (2010), the analysis of human behaviour through a generational approach is more effective than other demographic characteristics since each generational cohort shares similar circumstances, such as technological advances, social norms, economic developments, needs and wants (T’Erve, 2013).

As previously discussed, the focus of this thesis is on the millennials, or generation Y, echo-boomers or digital generation are the generation comprised between 1980 and 2000 (Santos et al, 2016). This generation is globally recognized as the one with the highest education level and, since those belonging to it were born during the so- called “information age”, generation Y is also known as digital native (Santos et al., 2016).

A large number of millennials have gathered significant travel experience since childhood, which makes them the generation that travels more often, that spends more money for tourism purposes and that usually uses the Internet to make travel bookings (Benckendorff et al., 2010). The internet is, however, also significantly used to share and review travel experiences of peers and, according to different studies, the majority of millennials trusts online reviews as much as personal recommendations and rely on them for taking personal decisions (Santos et al., 2016).

Apart from hunger for new experiences and for knowledge (Santos et al, 2016), interest for environmental and social issues such as climate change and poverty alleviation is generally strong among the young (T’Erve, 2013). In fact, due to relevant education on environmental issues and their general “desire to save the world”, generation Y is overall very interested in sustainability, green products and ethical activities (Ellis, 2010).

However, as discussed by Schmeltz (2012), millennials are also highly consumptive, self- centred and more narcissistic than any previous generation (T’Erve, 2013). Therefore, their positive attitudes towards ethical behaviour were found to often collide with their actual behaviour. For example, Hume (2010) found that Generation Y does not engage in any sustainable practice as far as green products are concerned (T’Erve, 2013).

These discrepancies originate the so- called “attitude- behaviour gaps” in consumers, which will be further discussed in the next chapter of the literature.

3.2 The attitude- behaviour gap of consumers

Maio et al. (2007) have described the existing literature on the factors affecting human behaviour as “enormous”, since research on the topic is highly extensive (Darnton, 2008). Thus, a plethora of theories and theoretical models have been developed through the years to understand the relationship between personal factors and behaviour and the main drivers of change (Darnton, 2008). Among these models, one of the most renowned and widely accepted approaches is the “Theory of Planned Behaviour” (TPB) by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980), shown in figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Theory of Planned Behaviour (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1980)

According to the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), three main elements affect intentions to behaviour, namely the attitude toward behaviour, perceived behavioural control and subjective norms (Heeren et al., 2016). Attitudes, referring to personal cognitive evaluations (Rokeach, 1968; Allport, 1935) have been found to be particularly influential on behaviour, yet only when engaging in specific actions (Heeren et al., 2016). Social norms and perceived behavioural control also have an influence on behaviour since social pressure and personal control over an action are likely to play a major role, even though they might contrast certain attitudes (Heeren et al., 2016).

Because of its clarity, the TPB has been used as the base of many studies on human behaviour (Heeren et al., 2016). However, this model is particularly grounded on the idea that people are rational consumers who rationally use the available information without being “controlled by unconscious motives or overpowering desires” (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002, p. 242). Thus, it has received criticism from researchers who have confronted the assumptions that people are only rational and that attitudes and intentions lead to consequent behaviour (Coleman et al., 2003). This is evident in many studies in which the intention of people to act in a sustainable or pro-environmental manner did not result in pro-environmental behaviour, which predisposes inconsistencies (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002).

This phenomenon is known in research as the “attitude-behaviour gap” (Terlau & Hirsch, 2016) and it was first suggested by professor Hornik (1991), who expressed the idea of knowledge-behaviour gaps through an exploratory study of the reasons why people usually acknowledge health risks, yet do not act in ways to reduce these risks (Moraes et al., 2010).

The TPB has been addressed in numerous studies on the attitude- behaviour gaps within green or sustainable consumption (T’Erve, 2013). However, research on the attitude-behaviour gap within the visit of Wildlife- Tourist Attractions (WTAs) is still very limited. Therefore, the TPB will be used in this study as the fundamental theory for the analysis of the main elements affecting the attitude-behaviour gaps of millennial visitors at WTAs and the role of knowledge as an influencer for behavioural intentions.

3.2.1 Factors influencing the attitude – behaviour gap

Although inconsistencies between attitude and actual behaviour are caused by a variety of factors, knowledge is usually considered the key influencer of human behaviour (La Barbera et al., 2016). Along with knowledge, the followings represent the most relevant influencers for the purpose of this thesis: Blake’s theories on the “value- action gap”, direct experience and normative influences, rationalization techniques, egoism, the influence of reference groups and external factors.

Blake’s “value- action gap”

Blake (1999) refers to the attitude- behaviour gap as the “value- action gap”. In his view, attitude behaviour gaps exist because individuals are widely irrational and are characterized by individual, social and institutional constraints. He has identified three major obstacles between attitude and behaviour, namely individuality, responsibility and practicality (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002).

Firstly, individuality concerns the barriers inside the person, such as temperament and beliefs and these become stronger if the person does not have a strong interest for ethical consumption (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). The second barrier is responsibility or “locus of control”. This has to do with the lack of responsibility that people perceive when acting in an unsustainable manner. Indeed, if humans feel they cannot change or influence a situation, they cannot be responsible towards it. Thirdly, the barrier of practicality is not dependent on someone’s attitude or intention, but it depends on social constraints like lack of money, time and information (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: Barriers between environmental concern and action (Blake, 1999)

Blake’s approach was particularly used in a study concerning the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour by Kollmuss & Agyeman (2002); however, these tree barriers are significant also for the purpose of this research. Indeed, individuality, perceived responsibility and practicality could act as major barriers for travellers to ethical behaviour when visiting a WTA.

Direct experience and normative influences

Rajecki (1982) has determined four main causes of the attitude- behaviour gap, namely direct and indirect experience; normative influences; temporal discrepancy and attitude-behaviour measurement (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). Among these four elements, only the first two are of importance for this thesis as they represent cognitive causes, as opposed to empirical causes like the variables of time and attitude- behaviour measurements.

In regards to the first reason, according to Rajecki, indirect experiences, like simply gaining knowledge of an issue from the books, do not have a strong influence on behaviour. On the other hand, directly experiencing a certain situation will have a higher correlation and impact on final actions (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). In accordance with this theory, people who are planning to visit a WTA with negative animal welfare may only be partly affected by negative indirect information, while they will be significantly influenced after experiencing the activity themselves.

Normative influences also play a major role in the discrepancy between attitude and behaviour. In fact, cultural traditions, social norms and, more specifically, customs within the family determine a person’s attitude (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). Therefore, culture can highly influence the attitudes towards animals and their use in tourism and a family who generally visits animal- based attractions is more likely to persist in this habit, rather than involving their offspring in different types of activity. Habit is, in fact, considered fundamental in the decision- making process (T’Erve, 2013). This is proved by a study conducted by Sutton (2006), who found that past behaviour is able to have a higher influence on future behaviour than cognitions (T’Erve, 2013).

Rationalization techniques

According to many qualitative researchers like Chatzidakiset al. (2007), the attitude-behaviour gap exists on an individual level within ethical behaviour. This is particularly due to Sykes and Matza’s (1957) neutralisation techniques, which were developed when examining the problem of delinquency (Zralek, 2017). These techniques include “denial of responsibility” - the person is not responsible because of external influences-, “denial of victim” - the actions were caused by the victim who misbehaved-, “denial of injury” - no one was harmed by a certain action-, “appeal to higher loyalties”-the person is trying to reach higher goals- and “condemning the condemners”- people condemning the action engage in similar behaviour (Zralek, 2017). As stated by Chatzidakis et al. (2004, p.531) neutralisation may be applied if “there is an ethical concern that may trouble the consumer with respect to performing a certain action, which is (…) contrary to the direction that this concern dictates” (Moraes et al., 2010, p. 10).

The use of neutralization techniques when visiting WTAs could contribute to the emergence of attitude-behaviour gaps among visitors who declare to love animals, yet decide to participate in an attraction with poor animal welfare. Indeed, the tourist could acknowledge unethical behaviour, but justify it through external factors or by denying any damage during the activity.

Researchers have also argued that post-rationalisation strategies could facilitate the ethical consumption gap. Szmigin et al. (2009) found that lack of “cognitive dissonance” might be responsible, since this implies that people tend to experience frustration when their morals or ethical intentions are inconsistent with their behaviour (Carrington et al., 2015). Therefore, they generally respond to this feeling of remorse and guilt by either conforming their beliefs or their behaviour to a given situation (Juvan & Dolnicar, 2014).

In the specific instance of animal-based attractions, Shani (2009, p. 184) explains that travellers “might enjoy visiting attractions comprising animal shows, but at the same time he/she might feel discomfort/guilt because of the nature of some of the shows” (Moorhouse, D’Cruze & MacDonald, 2017, p. 510). In these cases, even though cognitive dissonance is manifested, people do not adapt their behaviour, but they rather change their attitudes and use justifications to alleviate discomfort deriving from it (Shu et al., 2011).

Consumers’ egoism

Another major factor causing attitude-behaviour gaps is the theory of egoism, which claims that all actions an individual takes are finalized at obtaining something desirable for the individual itself. In other words, the theory defines egoism as the desire of people to act upon self-interest (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). While Blackburn (2001) sees selfishness as a major threat to ethics in soc iety, psychologists believe that satisfaction of personal needs and personal ego are central to the human nature; thus constantly drive behaviour (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013).

The theory of altruism of Schwartz (1977) is closely connected with this concept, even though it considers the opposite pole. Indeed, it stipulates that altruism increases if the person is aware of negative situations and he/she feels responsible for diminishing other people sufferance. This might be missing if people do not perceive the sufferance of others (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). Stern et al, further developed this concept by adding to altruism an egoistic and biospheric orientation. While altruism alleviates other people pain, egoism aims at alleviating harm from oneself and the biospheric concern aims at removing sufferance in the biosphere, among animals and nature (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002).


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The influence of knowledge on the visitors' behaviour at wildlife-tourist attractions. Can awareness hinder Western millennial travellers from visiting harmful wildlife-based attractions?
NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences
International Tourism Management
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ISBN (Book)
Wildlife tourist attractions, attitude- behaviour gap, tourism, western, millennials, awareness
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Arianna Garzia (Author), 2018, The influence of knowledge on the visitors' behaviour at wildlife-tourist attractions. Can awareness hinder Western millennial travellers from visiting harmful wildlife-based attractions?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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