With pet travel on the up, hotels not catering for these four-legged customers will be left in the doghouse. We uncover some top techniques on how to best market your dog-friendly offering and how to strike the right balance among all your guests.
Guests opting to travel with their canine companions have become big business for the hotel sector over the past few years. As more consumers feel laced with guilt at the mere thought of leaving their pooch behind, how is the hospitality industry reacting to increase in demand from dog lovers?
From dedicated creature comforts, to special dog-food menus or a bulging treat basket on arrival, more hotels are realising that being able to not only accommodate, but go one step further and spoil their pet guests, will certainly win favour with a whole new market.
“Currently pet travel is estimated to grow at 65% per annum,” explains Gracia Amico, CEO of PetsPyjamas, “and dog owners spend on average 25% more during their stay than non-dog owners. We’re seeing interest in this customer segment grow on a daily basis from hotels.”
‘Dog friendly’ hotels will differ in their hospitality to furry guests, so as a hotel wanting to tap into this audience, where do you start? Consider if bringing a dog-friendly element will actually bring more customers to your hotel; for example, have you noticed a rise in requests from this type of guests? Your location will play a big part too – if your hotel benefits from acres of land, or picturesque surroundings, such as a coastal front or rolling hills, this will be a major drawer to any guest actively seeking a location suitable for their pooch.
Then you’ll need to hash out the finer details as to what you want to provide for pets. Aside from determining specific dog-friendly bedrooms, if you really want to impress, you’ll need to step it up a gear. Pets are part of the family for many guests and if your offering can demonstrate that you get this – think spoiling dogs as much as guests – then you’ll be onto a winner.
Amico continues: “Dog owners are inclined to spend more time and money at the hotel itself if they know their dog is truly welcomed. Offering them activities and meals where their dog is invited too is exactly what they are after.
“They want to be made to feel at ease and often this is down to the hotel staff. Having pet-adoring staff will not only make the pets and their owners feel exceptionally welcome, but it can help encourage calm behaviour from the dog. We send a complimentary personalised pet treat box for our customers to receive on arrival at the hotel to ensure they don’t need to bring things like toys and treats along. We’ve found that these boxes add to the customers’ overall enjoyment of their stay.”
However, dogs aren’t often the tidiest creatures and thought will need to be given as to how your housekeepers will handle this. Many hotels will charge guests extra to accommodate their pet, a cost that will go towards cleaning the room once they have vacated the property. Deep cleaning or sanitising, which can include shampooing of carpets and other efforts to get rid of allergens, may have to be undertaken if the bedrooms are also used by non-dog lovers to ensure there is no trace of the previous occupant.
Eric Snaith, Titchwell Manor Hotel in Norfolk says: “Out of our 27 bedrooms, we have eight dog friendly rooms, all of these have tiled floors so extra cleaning is not a problem. We decided this was a good maximum number for us as obviously we don’t want our other guests to feel like they’re outnumbered by dogs! It does make a little extra work for housekeepers, and that’s why we use rooms with tiled floors; it’s important to us that no one would know the room is a dog friendly room.”
Another major consideration to be aware of is that not all guests will be in favour of having furry friends running around while they might be wanting to enjoy some pet-free peace and quiet, even if said pets are of the cute and cuddly variety. So how do you strike the right balance between the two groups of guests?
Amico says: “A pet-friendly dining area is something to consider. Your entire restaurant doesn’t have to be pet-friendly – understandably there will be guests who won’t like to eat with animals around them. Providing a small area where pet owners can relax and enjoy their food in the company of their dog is all that is needed.”
“By only designating bedrooms in one area of the hotel for guests with pets helps us to not aggravate those who do not wish to be in contact with dogs,” explains Shara Ross, general manager, Hotel Felix. “This is important for asthma sufferers who do not want to enter a room where a dog may previously have stayed.
“We allow guests to leave their dog in their room whilst dining but request that they take appropriate measures if the dog is unsettled. We allow dogs in our grounds on the understanding that they are kept on a short leash and highlight that dog bins should be used for the disposal of waste. Prior to guests with dogs staying with us we send out a special confirmation mentioning all of this,” she adds.
The 28-bedroom Raithwaite Hall in Whitby has just opened the region’s first ‘dog spa’, offering to pamper pooches with a variety of treatments and therapies to help dogs really ‘relax’. The spa aims to cater for all breed of dog and all ages, including puppies, and is happy to host puppy parties and weddings. The Dog Spa also has dog lodges, giving owners the option to leave their dogs for an hour, a day or even overnight.
Claire Jones, estate hotel manager, Raithwaite Estate says: “Opening the dog spa in the Keep allowed us to offer a unique experience for guests opting for a pet friendly break. Our location is ideal for walking and exploring, so this, and together with our selection of pet friendly services we feel we are really able to offer these guests a luxury pet friendly retreat.”
Pets Pyjamas is an award-winning pet lifestyle website – featuring more than 10,000 pet accessories, mainly from British makers, and hundreds of bookable, pet-friendly hotels, cottages and B&Bs. The company surveyed some of their top hotels to find out exactly what’s driving the hospitality market for hounds.
What is the number one concern from guests looking to bring their dog to your hotel?
- Rooms set up specifically for dogs: 25%
- If dogs are allowed in every area of the hotel: 65%
- Dog food and toys on offer: 10%
Are you willing to allow dogs to eat with their owner in a designated area of the hotel?
- Yes: 90%
- No: 10%
Has targeting guests travelling with dogs become a key part of your business strategy now?
- Yes: 70%
- No: 30%
What marketing techniques work best?
Dog owners rely heavily on their network of other dog owners for tips and recommendations. Ensuring your guests are warmly welcomed and their four legged friends are fussed over will go a long way to encourage the all-important personal recommendations.