Last year, one American tourist made headlines when he shot and killed a treasured black-maned lion, "Cecil," in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. The story pushed the issue of poaching and wildlife trafficking into the global conversation and educated many consumers on some of the adverse influences of tourism on the natural environment. Still, many may not realize how their vacation mementos are impacting the areas they visit. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is partnering with a major airline to educate consumers on how their travel can negatively affect vacation destinations – and what they can do to be more responsible travelers.
This week JetBlue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance launched a new educational campaign empowering consumers to "buy responsible" while touring the Caribbean. The partnership produced a short PSA film, "informing customers of the role they play in protecting Caribbean wildlife and preserving the region's beauty." The video features interviews with conservation champions from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada describing the local challenges of protecting species like sea turtles, blue and gold macaws and coral reefs. Each interview gives pointers on how consumers can help protect these local treasures and shows travelers souvenirs to avoid, like coral jewelry or items with bird feathers or sea turtle shells incorporated into them. The video will be shown to all passengers on JetBlue flights – a large and captive audience. According to JetBlue Service Director Dan Ashe, "The potential to reach the 35 million people who fly with JetBlue each year is an unprecedented opportunity for us to communicate with the very people we hope will be empowered as guardians of the Caribbean's wildlife."
JetBlue's partnership to educate travelers not only helps consumers make more educated purchasing decisions and brings awareness to protecting precious Caribbean species, but also helps JetBlue's bottom line. "More than one-third of our travel is to the Caribbean and Latin America. We are dedicated to protecting its beauty and health, which in turn protects tourism and our business," said Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue's head of sustainability in a recent campaign announcement. In this way, JetBlue encourages responsible tourism benefiting Caribbean areas, consumers and the company itself.