DUBAI // The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in Britain has banned an advert in Virgin Holidays' worldwide brochure for Dolphin Bay Atlantis after it found the claims, suggesting the dolphins had been rescued from the wild and rehabilitated before being set free again, to be misleading.
The ASA adjudication said: "We considered that the resort was, in a manner of speaking, a rescue and rehabilitation facility for marine animals, in that it had the necessary equipment, expertise and licence for this kind of activity. We also noted that, to date, the resort had not rescued or rehabilitated any animals.
"We considered that, without further clarification, the average consumer would infer from the claim, 'Dubai's first and only marine animal rescue and rehabilitation facility' that the animals at the resort had been rescued and were being rehabilitated with a view to release, where appropriate. Because we understood that this was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading."
The advert stated that "Dolphin Bay is a state-of-the art four-and-a-half hectare lagoon facility featuring three interaction coves complete with sandy beaches. Guests are able to choose from 3 unique experiences suitable for different ages and swimming capabilities ... An unbelievable experience, that is fun, educational and conservation-minded at the same time."
According to the ASA, a letter submitted from Atlantis to Virgin Holidays stated that the dolphins came from an existing facility, the Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre.
The resort denied partnering with dolphin drive fisheries or non-professional operators and confirmed that all local and international wildlife laws were followed in bringing the dolphins to the resort.
They advised that their definition of "rescue" was to save the animals from a dangerous or distressing situation and by "rehabilitation" they meant providing treatment designed to facilitate the process of recovery from injury, illness, or disease to as normal a condition as possible.
Virgin advertised that Dolphin Bay at Atlantis, The Palm was equipped with the necessary equipment to save dolphins from danger or distress as a result of sickness or beaching and to rehabilitate them to recovery from injury, illness or disease - although the resort has so far not had to use its facilities.
However, so that they could be prepared should a stranding occur, the facility held an Emergency Response Workshop for Dolphin Beach Stranding to help advise relevant marine parties of their facilities.
Majid Al Qassimi, an Emirati veterinarian, said such misleading marketing had wider implications.
"People interested in eco-tourism and conservation might come on the premise that they are going to see some ground-breaking conservation work going on and find that is not true. Landing in just another entertainment destination is detrimental to the professionals involved, to the hotel and to the reputation of the UAE as a whole.
"These issues reach out emotionally to a lot of people."
The hotel said in a statement: "Atlantis was founded upon and remains committed to providing the best marine life experiences in the world.
"All local and international wildlife laws were strictly followed in bringing the new Dolphin Bay family to Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai.