It goes without saying that we here at The World by Road Collective love travel and everything related to it, so it is only natural when we hear someone or something mention something even remotely tangential to the subject of travel, our ears perk up. Such was the case when earlier today I was driving back to my house and my ears caught a commercial on the radio advertising the new exhibit, Elephant Passage at the Denver Zoo. It wasn’t the grand opening of this $50 million exhibit featuring Asian elephants, which one only picks up on at the end of the advert, it was how they went about promoting the attraction.
The advertisement (I am trying to find and audio file to imbed in the blog) starts out by saying something like:
“If you wanted to see elephants in Asia, you could: renew your passport, buy at $4,000 ticket to Thailand, learn how to say “I want to see elephants” in a difficult language (Someone the proceeds to speak in Thai), drag your luggage around all over the place, get bitten by bugs, etc. etc. etc.”
Basically it goes on to list all of the potential inconveniences of travel and all of the bad things that can happen to you and then finishes with; “…or you could just come to the new Elephant Passage at the Denver Zoo.”
I’m not going to go into the moral implications of zoo’s which is an entirely separate and controversial subject, but I really think the zoo could have picked a better message to use when attracting visitors to their new exhibit. Sure, they were trying to employ a bit of humor, but you don’t have to knock travel and perpetuate and bunch of ridiculous stereotypes about traveling, and about Thailand, to draw people to the zoo. In fact, if more people actually traveled to Thailand and actually saw these magnificent animals in their natural habitat, they might be more educated and inclined to help protect them and preserve that habitat. I think back to Helen Todd, one of the first TWBR crew members who joined up with us after volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, and all of the wonderful stories she shared of her experiences there. Sure traveling might be difficult at times, and it can be expensive if you don’t take the time to do your research, but for all of the potential costs and difficulties, the rewards of traveling are priceless and the benefits last a lifetime.
A more responsible ad could have said: “Come see our new and exciting Asian elephant exhibit and learn about the animals and their habitat and you might be inspired enough to go see them in the wild for yourselves!” Oh, and not to mention, you could also expose yourself to an entirely different culture and learn a million other things in the process. Alas, the message I took from the ad was pretty simple; fake is better than real, and easy is better than something that might actually take a bit of additional effort. The easy way is to pay $10 and go see the elephants in captivity… despite a $50 million price tag, lets face it, the elephants still live in a cage.