Customized dog treats, pup-oriented room service, and evening socials (“yappy hours”) are some of the goodies a human’s best friend can find when traveling, and more Americans are traveling with their dogs than ever before. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), out of 126 million U.S. households, about 60 million have canine companions, and 40 percent of those take their pets along when traveling for two or more nights. That’s about 24 million households looking for a place to stay with a furry friend up to several times a year, which is certainly no number for resorts to sneeze—or bark—at.
And more hotels are catering to dog owners who want to travel with their pets, including the Kimpton, Ritz-Carlton, and Four Seasons brands, as well as smaller hotels, whose programs include the loan of dog beds and bowls; maps and listings of local pet-friendly and pet-pampering establishments; dog-walking services; or branded toys and accessories.
According to APPA, the highest rate of pet ownership among the generations now belongs to millennials. This coveted consumer group, born between 1980 and 1994, constitutes 35 percent of all pet owners (compared with 32 percent of baby boomers, a close second). Because they are more inclined to “humanize” their pets by pampering them, buying them gifts, and including them in daily activities, millennials are increasingly seeking out pet-friendly accommodations. And according to a 2018 Summer Travel Survey conducted by pet-service company Rover.com, 37 percent of respondents chose not to travel rather than be separated from their dogs. That means millions of American households are potentially forgoing vacation out of loyalty to their beloved animals. So a pet program could entice people to stay with a particular resort or timeshare over others.
An additional benefit of a pet program is greater resort exposure through websites such as BringFido and Pets-welcome that list pet-friendly accommodations, while another is the sense of community that animals can foster by sparking interactions between guests, which has the potential to drive customer loyalty and repeat business.
Keep in mind that a pet program is more than just treats. Create a dog run on your property, or, if your resort is near hiking trails or a dog-friendly beach, you can leverage those and have staff convey to owners where they can go. Simply creating a place for people to walk their dogs isn’t enough if owners think of their pet as one of the family; done right, however, a pet program can be a great way to form a relationship. According to Nick Gregory, SVP, Hotel Operations, at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, a property should consider a pet policy “to appeal to pet-loving travelers and to foster genuine connections that will keep those guests coming back—whether or not they have their pet in tow.”
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