During our tour in Sri Lanka, we did an elephant ride. We had mixed feelings about doing that or not... we don't feel like supporting touristic attractions that might implicate on wild life destruction.
Finally, after some consideration we did it. I had done it in Thailand also couple years ago when I was travelling with Up with People so I also have some comparision.
Our considerations to take the ride were:
Elephants have being tamed and are integrated into Hindu and Buddhist cultures for thousands of years. Just like our catle or horses, elephants born on captivity cannot be reintegrated into nature without very careful preparation.
Elephants are plenty in Sri Lanka and it seems that the country does a really good job protecting them and also regulating the tourism around it. Actually, cities have fances around to avoid that wild elephants enter the city. Easily you can see them on roads and in certain national parks you can see tens of them on the wild.
Many people have been living for generations as elephant trainners.
It must be a way where we can have this sort of places and a decent treatment for the elephants.
Just one day before, we were at an elephant orphanage where we learned that many of them cannot be returned to nature for many different reasons. It makes sense for me those two organizations could work together.
The experience of the ride was not that nice though, despite of all the considerations. Didn't feel we were doing something right and let us a bit upset for the elephants. I would not recomend it to anyone else and probably would never do it again.
Elephants were not as well as I thought they should be and traineers looked really poor, bagging for tips after the ride.
On the road after that we were thinking about it and concluded that some things could be done to turn such an experience into something really incredible, respecting specially the two most important resources of the business: elephants and trainers.
Basically, we have applied our Business Model evaluation method to asses the business and make suggestions for improvement.
Focus on the costumer journey are key to this business, but the elephant experience as well as the trainer experience are really important to sustain it on high level service with no impact for nature and for the society living out of it.
Here are the results of our thoughts, that we handled to our tour guide so that he could bring to the owner when he is back there. Hope it helps a bit!
(Sorry for just have the hand manuscript, didn't have the time to put it in a more formal way... any questions! just ask! 😊)
We know it's a polemic theme, but for us, looking for business with impact to society and innovation, was a stimulating exercise. And now I'm convinced that it could happen in a more respectufull and profitable way.
A full experience with learning about elephants, about the elephant you are riding, participating on taking care of the animal and have good trainers with proper life conditions, in sync and with love for theirs animals... could turn this experience into something really unique.