After months of discussions with lobbying groups, TripAdvisor will stop selling tickets for attractions and tours that do not meet guidelines for animal welfare.
The change in policy will affect both TripAdvisor and Viator, the sister company that specialises in bookings for tours and activities around the world.
TripAdvisor says the removal of the booking facilities will come into play immediately for some products and is expected to eventually hit "hundreds" of attractions owners and tour operators.
The types of products likely to be impacted by the new policy include those operating elephant rides, feature tiger-petting or operate swimming-with-dolphin tours - essentially any type of attraction where there is "physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species".
Alongside the no-booking strategy, TripAdvisor is to launch what it calls an education portal where travellers are directed to if they click on a paw icon against specific animal-based attractions so that they can learn about related issues from a number of organisations such as PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals), Global Wildlife Conservation and WildCRU.
Both elements of the new strategy will be fully launched and implemented by early-2017, TripAdvisor says.
The change is the result of a series of meetings with animal welfare organisations over the past few months following criticism of TripAdvisor earlier this year.
CEO Steve Kaufer says the new booking policy is a "means to do our part in helping improve the healthy and safety standards of animals".
One of the most vocal groups, World Animal Protection, ran a campaign (backed by a few celebrities) to force TripAdvisor to remove attractions that were deemed to be cruel to animals.
Whilst the new policy falls short of WPA and other's original aim, with the listings remaining on the site, removing the booking tools will go some way to raising awareness of welfare issues and prevent owners from profiting from bookings via TripAdvisor/Viator.
The company says:
"TripAdvisor remains committed to its philosophy that travelers have the right to write about their travel experiences – be it positive or negative.
"With millions of travelers submitting more than 380 million reviews and opinions to TripAdvisor, the company continues to firmly believe that our community of contributors can serve as a check-and-balance on matters of quality, customer service, and social issues – such as how animals are treated in the tourism industry.
TripAdvisor will continue its existing policy of banning any listings that use captive wild animals or endangered species for so-called blood sports, such as hunting or bullfights.
A few months after the WAP campaign earlier this year, TripAdvisor said it was "committed to exploring this [issue] in a thoughtful and responsible manner to protect animal welfare" - the first sign that there could be some changes coming after initially maintaining that traveller reviews were the most effective way of policing listings.
WAP CEO, Steve McIvor, says TripAdvisor's new position is "a significant step towards ending wildlife tourism cruelties, and we hope it will have a huge influence on the tourism industry as a whole".
"We will share our welfare knowledge, expertise and point of view on the cruelties that animals face in the tourism industry. "
There will be a number of exemptions to the no-booking policy, TripAdvisor says, including children's petting zoos, touch pools in aquariums used for educational purposes, supervised feeding programmes and some voluntourism projects.
Professor David Macdonald, founding director of Oxford University’s WildCRU, adds:
"The tip of the iceberg, conspicuous above the water, is the welfare of wild animals in tourist attractions, but hidden beneath the metaphorical waterline can be a huge cascade of effects on the welfare of animals in the wild, from which specimens may be taken, and the far-reaching impacts on their conservation."