IAAPA responded with displeasure after Virgin CEO Richard Branson said in a blog that the firm would “end the sales and promotion of tourism attractions that involve captive cetaceans, such as whales and dolphins.”
The attractions industry association said they support “accredited facilities around the world with animals in their professional care” and that the “facilities play a critical role in conservation of endangered species, education, research and serving the communities in which they operate.”
SeaWorld, one of the most prominent of such parks, hit back after the announcement, too, saying it was “disappointing to see Virgin Holidays succumb to pressure from animal activists,” according to the BBC.
SeaWorld’s treatment of orca whales was the subject of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which was prompted by the 2010 death of a trainer who was mauled by a captive orca named Tilikum. After years of declining market value, attendance and reputation, a late 2018 comeback was reported by Quartz.