By Fiona Davids and Kim Emmanuel

Airports Company South Africa (Asca) has confirmed that it will remove a South African Tourism campaign image from the halls of the international arrivals area at OR Tambo International Airport.

The image depicts a family sitting and playing with lion cubs. Acsa told Tourism Update that OR Tambo International Airport had offered SA Tourism and Blood Lions the opportunity to identify and submit a suitable replacement image. “The replacement image has not yet been chosen but once an image has been agreed, it will be installed as soon as possible.”

Acsa had agreed to remove the image after Blood Lions drew attention to its concerns about the petting of young wild animals.

Nicola Gerrard, Digital Marketing Manager at Blood Lions, said the organisation was “hugely happy” with the decision to remove the images and added that they had had great support from SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona. “Our hope is that SA Tourism will start to work toward portraying ethical wildlife tourism that avoids all animal interaction,” said Gerrard.

According to Paul Tully, Sales and Marketing Manager for Captured in Africa, the removal of the image will lead to proper education and awareness of issues such as cub petting, not only for tourists but for tour operators too. “We cannot continue misleading tourists with the belief that cub petting is either responsible tourism or conservation – because such facilities are neither,” he added.

Tully said it was the tourism industry’s role as ambassadors to properly educate and promote South Africa as a responsible tourism destination.

SA Tourism said on Friday that it would release a statement, after which Tourism Update will update this story.