It's Not a Good Idea to Put Dolphins in a Hotel

By Sarah Lucas CEO & Founder, Action for Dolphins | October 22, 2017

A decade ago it might have been socially acceptable to swim with dolphins in a hotel pool. But those days are gone. Now posting a holiday pic posing with Flipper is hugely controversial. Just ask reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who found herself in hot water after swimming with dolphins in Mexico. Or Real Housewives’ Bethany Frankel, who copped a wave of social media criticism for visiting Atlantis Paradise Island’s Dolphin Cay in August.

Ever since the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove exposed the cruel dolphin hunts in Japan and the 2013 documentary Blackfish exposed the mistreatment of orcas to a mass audience, the dolphin captivity industry has been fighting a losing battle. SeaWorld’s attendance rates plummeted in the wake of the second film, and the world’s largest marine theme park company’s profits fell 84%.

Hotels are not immune to the flow on effect of this social change. Those that offer dolphin experiences are increasingly becoming the target of organised demonstrations and animal welfare campaigns. Dolphin Quest in Hawaii, for example, is the frontline of regular protests from local animal welfare groups, who line up in front of the hotel for hours with signs sporting slogans such as “Captivity is cruel” and “Thanks, but no tanks”.

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A 2017 Protest at Kahala Resort, Hawaii. Photo: Phil Waller, Empty the Tanks Hawaii

It’s easy to try and discredit activists and animal welfare groups by labelling them ‘extremists’ (a ‘framing’ tactic the dolphin entertainment industry has been using for years). But their concerns don’t just come from a place of compassion. They are backed up with science and well-respected marine mammal experts.

Studies show captive dolphins regularly exhibit some degree of abnormal or stereotypic behaviour. This can range from self-inflicting trauma by banging their heads on concrete walls to biting the sides of their pools, floating motionless for long periods (called ‘logging’), or ‘pacing’ around and around in circles.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.