Spotlight on: pet-friendly travel

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Millions of people now travel with their pets and many savvy hoteliers are capitalising on this. While this market may not be for everyone, Click. explores the potential opportunities for hotels and other types of properties

A recent survey by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) found that 75% of its hotel members now allow pets, and similar statistics are true for many other destinations.

A quick search on one major Online Travel Agency using its ‘pets allowed’ filtering option shows that in Paris, Rome, Bavaria in Germany, and Ontario in Canada, 30-60% of hotels accept pets.

In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and USA, 40-75% of the population has a cat or dog, and many travellers specifically seek out hotels that allow pets.

Catering to this audience isn’t going to be possible for everyone, but for those who can, creating a ‘pets welcome’ ethos opens up the doors to many guests who won’t travel without their pets. Allocating a few rooms as pet-free zones could be enough to assuage those with allergies, one main sticking point for many hoteliers and accommodations.

So how do you make your hotel pet-friendly? Beverley Cuddy, Editor of Dogs Today magazine has had years of experience travelling with her own dogs. She says: “Pet owners really appreciate being put in a room with quick access to the grounds, and somewhere to wash muddy paws after a walk. I was once reviewing a hotel with beautiful white carpets and linen, close to a beach with red sand. After a lovely walk, I felt I couldn’t go back inside, so I simply put the dog in the car and drove home.”

Her readers shared their thoughts, too, pointing out that how staff treat pets can make all the difference. If they show disdain for the animal, it can ruin the entire stay for the guests, while simple gestures such as treats, pet blankets and even just smiles can go a long way.

And it’s not just dogs who travel now. The website Adventure Cats is part of a growing trend of people taking their cats with them on their road.

Britt Collin often takes trips with her cats, and has written the book Strays, the true story of a homeless man who travels across America with a stray cat, published in 12 countries from June 2018, and is launching Europe’s first pop-culture Catfest in July.

‘Pet owners really appreciate being put in a room with quick access to the grounds.’ Photo: Unsplash

‘Pet owners really appreciate being put in a room with quick access to the grounds'

“Bafflingly, I’ve found many hotels that allow dogs don’t allow cats, despite the fact that cats are cleaner, quieter and less destructive. It would be helpful if hotels stated on their website that they welcome all small animals,” she reveals.

Beware of confusing policies

Confusing policies on arrival at the hotel cause problems, too. For example, some hotels don’t allow pets anywhere except the guest room – yet they also state that pets can’t be left alone in the room. So how is the guest meant to have dinner? If you have a hotel restaurant, designate a section as pet-friendly, or allow pets in the lounge and serve dinner to the guest there.

The owner of the aptly named Travel Dog PR agency, Mick Thompson often travels with his canines. His hotel wish list?

“Sections for people with dogs in public areas, washable throws to cover beds, water bowls in rooms, better staff training, rooms with direct access to outside areas, wood floors rather than carpet in pet-friendly rooms – and an outside tap with an area for hosing down mucky dogs,” he says.

On travel forums and hotel-reviews sites, many people with pets complain about hoteliers who charge high fees for pets to stay, with most suggesting a refundable deposit in case of damage seems much fairer. Discrimination against cats and well-behaved large dogs is also a source of contention.

According to the AHLA, 80% of its luxury hotel members now welcome pets

Many hotel chains have realised the value of catering to pet owners and roll out the red carpet to four-legged guests, including many branches of Lowes Hotels, W hotels, Kimpton Hotels, Novotel and Hyatts.

Savvy luxury hoteliers go above and beyond to attract the jet-set-pet set. According to the AHLA, 80% of its luxury hotel members now welcome pets. At The Chatwal in New York City, for example, they can arrange pet beds, a Chatwal ID pet-tag for use during your stay, food bowls, treats menu, an NYC taxi cab toy, and a personalised wardrobe for your pet to use while at the hotel.

That might be a little too far for some, but you could follow the example of the Talland Bay Hotel in Cornwall, England. On arrival, dogs are given a welcome pack with treats and blanket; they can dine with their human companions in the brasserie, and pets are offered freshly cooked chicken for dinner.

Going the extra mile like this doesn’t cost much, but can make a world of difference to your guests.

Check out our Podcast 'Spotlight on: pet friendly travel to dealing with no shows'

Hero image: credit to Wyatt Ryan

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Allow pets access to at least some lounges, bars and dining areas
Provide basic pet-cleaning facilities – water, soap and towels – by the main entrances, and washable throws in rooms for pets to sleep on
Don’t charge rip-off fees to those with pets. Instead, take a fully refundable damage deposit
Ensure staff make pets feel just as welcome as their human companions
Designate some guest rooms as permanently pet-free for those with allergies