Youth travel company STA Travel has dropped tours taking in elephant rides and Tiger Temple in Thailand, and reviewing trips to SeaWorld in Orlando and San Diego.

The company is reviewing all its provision involving contact with animals to ensure they meet what it believes are the ethical standards demanded by its customers, some of whom had begun questioning current offers, The Guardian reported today.

STA turned to advice and the animal rights group is now likely to turn its sights on other big holiday companies, especially more family-oriented ones.

Animal right group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) believes the move by STA, with its 230 branches, including 50 in the UK, is setting an example for the global travel industry and may result in further shifts towards responsible tourism.

Kathryn Kirkpatrick, who became STA’s social responsibility programme manager in March, told the newspaper: “We are constantly assessing our products to make sure they are of a high quality and responsible.

“We take this seriously and listen carefully to feedback from animal welfare experts, customers and staff. If something isn’t up to our standards, we remove it.

“We are very much at the beginning of this journey. It is really important we do it over time, understand what the issues are and work with organisations that really understand those issues.”

She added that much of the firm’s business involved volunteer and conservation work and educational trips.

“We have a responsibility to them to make sure they have a fantastic experience as well. We need to make sure our products are right for them. We will continue to deliver products if they are done in the right way.”

Peta UK associate director Mimi Bekhechi said STA is leading the way in “compassionate” tourism.

A SeaWorld spokesman said: “We are assisting STA Travel in their animal attraction evaluation process and welcome the opportunity to share information on our high standards of care and the rigorous inspection and accreditation processes that ensure the health and well-being of our animals.”

Correction: In our original article it was stated that STA had already taken SeaWorld off-sale, when in fact the company is still reviewing its trips to SeaWorld and has yet to make a decision regarding whether to continue selling it.