Welcome to the New Normal — Have Pet, Will Travel
People love their pets. There’s no doubt about it. Of the 65% of American households that have pets, about 78% of them take their furry little bundles on vacation with them. And hospitality businesses across the nation have recognized that movement for what it is — a major opportunity. More and more are not only welcoming pets, but they’re catering to them. Big time. And it’s paying off through increased bookings, nice word-of-mouth promotion and, if you do things right, a whole lot of social media mentions.
Here are some ideas to help you make sure your hospitality business—from hotels to RV parks—are up to the four-legged task.
HOTELS & RESORTS
If you really want to get tails wagging, take a lesson from Kimpton® Hotels. This international chain of boutique hotels takes their love of animals seriously with an amazing suite of pet amenities, no size or weight limit (if they fit through the door, they’re welcome!), no limit on the number of pets allowed, and…get this…no charge (or deposit) for their stay.
Remember though, most seasoned travelers with pets won’t be surprised by a pet fee, so if it makes you feel more comfortable, have at it. Acceptable fees run the gamut, depending on the hotel. For example, the Westin typically charges a refundable $150 deposit with a $35 non-refundable cleaning fee, which is incredibly reasonable for guests as long as no damage occurs. Other spots like the W Hotel charge $125–$150 for both a pet fee and non-refundable cleaning fee. Whether or not guests are willing to pay higher amounts will likely depend on if they take advantage of the complimentary pet features, such as dog-friendly outdoor greens, pet beds and doggy room service menus. Speaking of, those amenities are the key to competing in this market—because over time, they’re getting more and more lavish. Think ultra-luxurious pet beds like the Westin’s Heavenly® Pet Bed or Loews’ gourmet room service menus for cats and dogs. It makes all the difference, especially for longer vacation visits.
Here are a few of the smartest, easiest pet-friendly features to incorporate at your hotel.
- Plush, freshly laundered pet-beds
- Water bowls, food bowls, litter pans, scoopers and mats
- “Pets inside” door hangers to alert hotel staff
- Courtesy waste bags
- Waste deposit bins on the grounds
- A concierge list of nearby dog-friendly parks, dining spots and more
- Dog-walking routes
- Room service menu for pets
- Nighttime treats (impress with freshly baked treats) or catnip for feline guests
- A bowl of treats in the lobby
- Pet walking or pet sitting services
Last but not least, draw up a pet agreement form to cover all your bases and have guests initial each line item, then sign at the bottom. For example, include statements like “My pets’ vaccinations are current.” “My pets are protected from fleas.” “I agree to keep my pets’ ID tags on at all times.” “I will not leave my pets unattended in the room.” “I will clean up any accidents in the room immediately.” You want guests and their pets to enjoy themselves but you also want to remind them of their responsibilities as a pet owner.
RV PARKS AND CAMPGROUNDS
One of the great aspects of camping for travelers is having the freedom to bring dogs along. If your park doesn’t allow them already, consider amending that rule…that one change could boost your bookings more than you think! Before you do, you’ll want to add at least a couple of basic amenities to make sure everyone’s comfortable. We’re talking about essentials like adding more waste bins throughout the property, making doggy waste bags available to guests, and even installing signs that remind guests to pick up after their pets.
Other nifty features you may want to include are dog-washing stations; maps to dog-friendly beaches and walking paths; and even doggy water features to cool pups down on hot summer days.
If you’re really dedicated to attracting canine lovers, take a page from Four Paws Kingdom in North Carolina, USA —known as “the First and Only Dog Dedicated Campground in the US.” Set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, four-legged campers at this pet oasis have access to a fenced-in swimming pond, an agility park, a dog bathhouse and grooming station, several dog parks (for big and small pups) and a lot more. This sets the bar high, we know—but there’s a giant segment of the population that is 100% enchanted by the very thought. So, if you have the space and the yen to go big, check into your options.
As you add features to your park, you’ll want to ensure you have rules and guidelines set up to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort. Have guests sign a pet agreement, or at the very least, hand our pet rules and regulations at check-in. Some guidelines may include things like: 1) Pets must be supervised at all times; 2) Vaccinations must be up-to-date; 3) Aggressive dogs are not allowed in off-leash areas; and 4) All dogs must wear ID collars. Got the idea? It’s pretty standard stuff.
To so many people around the world, pets are family—and opening your hotels or parks to them can open a whole new plane of success for you. What are your thoughts on going pet-friendly? Do you currently allow pets at your business? Do you receive a lot of inquiries about pet friendliness at your hotel, resort, RV park or campground? Let us know.