Animals in Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure

Photo Credit: Ira Moon / We Animals Media

ATLAS Special Interest Group
Animals in Tourism, Hospitality, and Leisure

Lucia Tomassini and Akke Folmer
NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences

The Netherlands

Humans have always been entangled in relations with animals. These relations have often been loaded with a power exercised by humans over animals. As such, the understanding of the sociological and political space of animals has largely revolved around places in which humans have physically and socially confined animals and their (im)mobilities – e. g. zoo, laboratories, veterinary clinics, homes, farms, breeding farms, parks, natural reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries. Consequently, this understanding of animals is the product of – and contributes to – the moral disentanglement of humans from animals and it results in a commodified approach to the latter. Nevertheless, the human fascination for animals has ancient origin and has emerged in several fields, from the understanding and symbolic use of animals within religions, the scientific interest in examining, inventorying, and cataloguing the different animal species, through to the artistic interest in picturing and representing them. Such interest towards animals comprehends collecting them in menageries, zoo, sanctuaries, exhibitions, and private collections, as well as hunting them, keeping them for companionship or pet therapy, and involving them in sports, competitions, and work activities. Further, the wide range of uses and abuses of animals like – just to name a few – food, clothing, laboratory test etc.


In the context of this ancient and enduring human interest and fascination for animals, as well as the human use – and abuse – of animals, tourism largely revolves around gazing at, visiting, encountering, experiencing, and consuming an ‘otherness’, often embodied by animals. For instance, wildlife trapped in zoos, reserves, ocean parks, and sanctuaries as tourist attractions, wildlife capture and hunting, companion animals in our daily routines and holiday times, farm animals as commodities trapped in trucks or confined in farms, as well as the Disneyfication of animals.

In the last decade, the severe loss of biodiversity, the growing debate on the Anthropocene epoch, the climate change crisis, as well as emerging critical approaches to borders, displacement, and othering are urging the rethinking of our co-existence with animals, and our understanding of the interactions and encounters with them. Consequently, in the context of tourism, this Special Interest Group aims to generate further knowledge and debate by exploring, investigating, questioning the challenges, and discussing the opportunities embedded in the human-animal co-existence as well as its understanding, storification, and sensorial representation.

If you want to contact the SIG coordinator, please fill in the form HERE

If you want to join this SIG, please fill in the form HERE

The work plan for 2024

  • Jan/Feb 2024 – Launch the novel Special Interest Group and enrolment of new members
  • March/April 2024 – ATLAS Webinar on Animals in Tourism, Hospitality, and Leisure to be organised on annual basis at least once per year, possibly twice
  • June 2024 – A dedicated Special Track in the coming ATLAS Europe Conference
  • During 2024 – Exploring the possibility to organise and host an annual conference for students and to organise regular online meetings and events for students
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