Airbnb Animal Experiences is a new program that will allow travelers to join in on more than “1,000 experiences co-hosted by over 300 species and their human advocates around the world,” Airbnb said in a statement. From hiking in the path of Asian elephants in Thailand to cuddling with ridiculously adorable cows in Hawaii, there’s an animal experience for everyone.
But more importantly, Airbnb is the first major booking platform to create a wide array of experiences with animals that are tied to a progressive policy on animal welfare created in partnership with World Animal Protection, an organization working to protect animals for over 50 years.
“We know people love animals and want to see and experience them when they travel, but we also know they most want to see animals in a setting that respects their well-being,” said Alesia Soltanpanah, executive director of World Animal Protection. “This new animal welfare policy created in consultation with our animal welfare experts combined with the creativity and dedication of Airbnb will ensure that adventurers have many options to experience the beauty of animals in a way that considers their welfare first.”
The policy has a few key elements that will hopefully help set the standard in the industry, including these specific key points:
· Wild animals: there should be no direct contact including, but not limited to, petting, feeding, or riding animals
· Working animals: maximum one rider and never more than 20% of the animal’s weight, never to be overworked
· Marine mammals: should never be in captivity for entertainment
· Broader host business: should not feature elephant rides, big cat interactions, illegal wildlife trade, sporting events such as canned and trophy hunting, animals performing for entertainment
· Responsible travel: no wild animals as selfie props or any negative training techniques
In reality, the majority of travelers’ intentions with animals are pure, and most travelers simply don’t understand the impact tourism has on animals. And while some of the popular animal activities you see on Instagram will not be included in the platform because they’re against the policy — like bathing with elephants in Thailand — there are hundreds of experiences that will truly make you smile. You can go kayaking with corgis that are probably more laid-back than those that belong to the Queen or go on a safari searching for wild parrots… in Brooklyn.
For a little more adventure, head to Iceland to observe arctic fox in the snow, or go off the grid to the Chernobyl exclusion zone to help feed and socialize with dogs left behind after the nuclear disaster.