Richard Branson: Virgin Holidays won't sell tickets to attractions with captive whales, dolphins

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson announced Monday that his travel company Virgin Holidays will stop selling tickets and promoting attractions that “involve captive cetaceans, such as whales and dolphins.”

The billionaire made the announcement in a blog post Monday. The company said it has been working toward the goal since 2014 when it announced the Virgin Pledge which essentially, is a commitment that the firm will “only continue to work with suppliers that don’t take sea cetaceans from the wild.” Branson wrote that his company worked with activists, scientists and others which resulted in the pledge.

"We knew then it was going to be the first step in a long journey to end the use of captive cetaceans for human entertainment," he wrote.

In 2017, the company had announced it would not add attractions that featured captive whales and dolphins to the travel portfolio.

“Based on this vision, in 2017 Virgin Holidays agreed to support the pioneering dolphin sanctuary project of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, an ambitious plan to relocate their captive population of bottlenose dolphins to a much larger, more natural coastal sanctuary, which is set to open in 2021,” he wrote.

Branson said the announcement “comes at a right time” and he hoped to see other companies get involved in the same effort.

The BBC reported that some of the companies that will be affected by the announcement include SeaWorld parks in San Diego and Orlando. The British based-company will also not sell tickets to attractions at Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas, Atlantis the Palm in Dubai and Discovery Cove in Orlando.

Last year, Thomas Cook, a British travel agency announced it would stop selling tickets to parks that have orcas in captivity.


SeaWorld came under fire following the 2013 “Blackfish” documentary scandal. Following the documentary, the parks saw low attendance. However, attendance rose in 2018 and the company later announced it would no longer breed killer whales and would stop using them in shows.

"It is disappointing to see Virgin Holidays succumb to pressure from animal activists who mislead and manipulate marine mammal science to advance their agendas," Dr. Chris Dold, SeaWorld’s chief zoological officer, told FOX Business in a statement.

“Virgin’s own corporate mission is having a measurable purpose that positively impacts communities and the environment. SeaWorld is the epitome of that mission,” he continued. “With more than 35,000 animal rescues and decades of meaningful scientific contributions, we are proud to be a recognized global leader in marine mammal science, education and, in particular, providing preeminent care to all of our marine mammals.”

Dold said SeaWorld works around the clock in order to protect mammals and oceans.

“With rising threats to our oceans and their inhabitants, supporting independently accredited zoological facilities is more important than ever. No company does more to protect marine mammals and advance cetacean research, rescue and conservation than SeaWorld,” he said.

FOX Business' Thomas Barrabi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.