Walter James Palmer was simply a well-to-do dentist in suburban Minneapolis who enjoyed hunting. Until the online world turned against him for killing Cecil, a much beloved lion in a Zimbabwe reserve. Right now, the facts are still emerging. Palmer thought his hunt was legal and proper. But the Court of the Internet has a different opinion. Aside from Bill Cosby, Walter Palmer is now the most hated man on the planet; and right or wrong, this hunt has likely destroyed his life. As travel professionals, we need to pay attention for a few reasons.
Putting aside animal rights and personal opinions for a moment, hunting is a big business. There are hundreds of suppliers that can arrange hunting expeditions on six continents and seven oceans. And hunting, when done properly, legally, and ethically, may not be a horrible thing. The key words are “properly, legally, and ethically.” It has been reported that Palmer had paid $55,000 as an illegal bribe (of sorts) to hunt this lion. It has also been reported that his guide used a dead animal tied to the back of a vehicle to lure the lion from the reserve. Right there, we have a problem with proper, legal, and ethical. Legitimate companies care if they fail. Legitimate companies will make sure that the legal and proper permits are in place. Legitimate companies will carry the proper insurances. Legitimate companies will likely cost a bit more than an illegitimate one, but the cost is worth the price.
This is a perfect example why it is so critical to select reputable preferred suppliers. For those of us affiliated with a franchise or consortia, a lot of the legwork is already handled. But for those that are truly independent, you need to ask some hard questions before aligning your business with an unknown entity. Pick the wrong one and you could be dealing with a drug dealer rather than the CVS pharmacist.
But perhaps the more damaging outcome of the slaying of Cecil is the future of Walter Palmer. Without the benefit of any legal procedure, the court of public opinion has tried, convicted, and sentenced the dentist to death—figuratively of course. He has received death threats and his professional profiles on Yelp, Facebook, and Google have been decimated. The shades on his dental practice have been pulled down and the office has been closed since the day the story broke.
No matter how good of a dentist he may (or may not) be, his business has likely suffered a fatal blow because of something that is completely unrelated to his business.
This is something that all business owners (in travel or not) need to keep in mind. Before the Internet and the age of transparency, indiscretions were usually non-events. Today, we are always on camera. Someone always has a cell phone recording what is happening. While getting drunk at the local watering hole and passing out in the parking lot may not kill your business—it won’t help it. But, getting into a fight and being charged with assault may. Killing an endeared lion in Zimbabwe? Absolutely. Just ask Walter Palmer!