Animal Tourism is an Opportunity to Go Wild—If We Remain Attentive

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Happy One-Year Anniverary to Mark Okrant. This is our NH Travel Guru’s 52nd column for and we love every one. Meet Mark and our other writers on April 28 at Nackey Loeb School of Communications. More info here.


By Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru

Have you ever stopped to consider how important animals are to the welfare of
the planet or, more to the point of this column, to enjoying a rewarding travel
experience? For too many people, the well-being of animal species ranks very low
on their list of day-to- day concerns.

Fortunately, there are people like Dr. Carol Kline, Associate Professor of Hospitality
and Tourism Management at Appalachian State University, and her associates at who are zealous about defending animals’ welfare. More about later in this column; but first, let’s explore the important role that
animals play in the travel industry.

When I first learned of Dr. Kline’s passion for animal tourism, I was a bit dubious.
Then I began to explore the range of travel-related activities that are shaped by the
presence of animals. As you consider the following list, be reminded that a number
of these are not positive experiences for the animals themselves:
* as attractions and entertainment . . . millions of people attend circuses and
rodeos, or visit zoos and aquariums each year
* as sport . . . horse and greyhound racing are just the tip of the iceberg
* as exotic dishes for people during exceptional travel experiences . . . reindeer
suppers in Sweden, barbecues in Texas and elsewhere
* as game on hunting and fishing trips
* as raw materials used in the construction of art, crafts, and souvenirs
* as pack animals to carry travelers and their gear

Mark Okrant

In total, wildlife tourism accounts for an estimated twenty to forty percent of the total one trillion dollars expended annually by travelers and the services that
accommodate them. In Africa alone, wildlife-based ecotourism generated an estimated thirty-four billion dollars in visitor spending during 2013.

Speaking of mistreatment of animals, my family members and I watch in horror each time a television report shows the work of animal poachers.

One can sense the animals’ horror as skilled guides chase, corner, kill, then mutilate beautiful, endangered elephants, rhinoceroses, giraffes, and big cats for their skins, horns/tusks, teeth, and bones. Fortuitously, other viewers’ reactions these days are similar to ours—revulsion and outrage.

The sad fact is that people who trap and destroy precious game are undermining
more than the animal species that are the direct victims of these onslaughts.
Ultimately, as species after species is diminished, or extinguished entirely, the
welfare of human residents in these hunting grounds is impacted as well.

Not only are cultural traditions diluted, but an important, sustainable income source is being threatened. Along with the obvious tragedy of losing animal lives, the continued decimation of wild animal populations will translate into the disappearance of
photographers and other ecotourists whose presence contributes more than five
percent of the gross domestic product within a number of developing nations.

What recourse is there for people who are interested in protecting
animals—domestically, internationally, and in tourism settings?
provides information for those of you who wish to be part of an international effort
to protect animals. The organization will be launching its new
website——during Be Kind to Animals Week, this May.

After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joins to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.

For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit

For information on current things to do in New Hampshire, go to:

NH Travel Guru Mark Okrant leads a double life as a murder mystery novelist.

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