By Lark Ellen Gould
Call it hosp-pet-ality or call it Fido-friendly fall-out from the economic recession. Either way, dogs are here (and there) to stay if the proliferation of dog-friendly hotels and hotel programs is any indication. It’s not unusual to see business properties such as Hilton, Fairmont, Loews and Doubletree hanging pets welcome shingles. And boutique hotels, such as the venerable Kimpton chain, make dog stays a daily part of their hotel persona.
The booming pet industry has seen an average growth of 5% over the past five years toward an estimated $53 billion in related sales this year, according to figures from the American Pet Products Association. The Association posits that 10.6 million dog owners a month take their dog on a trip. The mean age of U.S. pet owners is 48.
Hotels across the nation have taken notice with pet-friendly packages that offer perks ranging from a square yard of lawn with a decorative fire hydrant located just outside the lobby to full-service dog walking and pooch pampering programs.
Even Las Vegas, that adult playground of anything but granola crunching, trail blazing dog owners, has made room for Rover in the past few years. Caesars Entertainment properties started the trend with Pet Stay programs that include mat, food and water dishes, disposable waste bags and dog treats. Guests are given a welcome packet with info on areas for dog walking as well as grooming and vet care.
Even the Rat Pack-era Riviera Hotel & Casino put out a red carpet for canines recently.
“We understand pets are considered part of the family. With the launch of our new dog-friendly program, we hope our guests will have added peace of mind knowing they can now travel with their beloved pet,” says Anthony Bender, vice president of marketing and advertising.
Kimpton Hotel’s “Sit. Stay. Play.” campaign lets it all out for dogs with pooch photo contests, pet packages, even onsite directors of pet relations. At the Hotel Palomar in Los Angeles, for instance, pets are welcome with no added fees or deposits. A welcome board is chalked with the names of pets guests arriving that day. Guests are given complimentary pooper-scooper bags, an in-room bowl for food and water and a comfortable doggy bed to use. Dog walking/sitting services are available and a nearby vet is always on call.
Loews may have started it all when it launched its Loews Loves Pets program in 2000. The pet-friendly properties charge a one-time fee of $25 per stay and VIP (Very Important Pet) services include options for gourmet room service menus for cats and dogs, such creature comforts as specialized bedding, leashes, collars, litter boxes (and litter), and pooper-scoopers, pet placemats, water bowls, and such treats as rawhide bones, catnip and scratch poles.
Fancy Fairmont hotel properties keep a resident canine ambassador onsite to greet guests. Pet programs might be illustrated through their Washington D.C. “It’s a Dog’s World” package that runs $209 per night and features such amenities as dog treats handmade by the hotel’s executive chef, a walking map of pet-friendly places in the D.C. area, a special do not disturb pet sign for the door and the knowledge that 5% of this room rate will go to the Washington Animal Rescue League.
As for flying with Rover, the skies just got friendlier. Alaska Airlines is partnering with Banfield Pet Hospital chain, to help travelers prepare their pets for takeoff. Alaska Airlines customers traveling with or shipping their pets get a free office visit, travel consultation and $10 discount on a health certificate. A certificate is required for all pets traveling in the cabin, as baggage or as air cargo.
The airline offers Fur-st Class Care service that lets customers travel with their pets in the cabin. It also offers PetStreak Animal Express service for shipping animals via airfreight. Through June 9, Alaska Air Cargo is offering a 10% discount on PetStreak Animal Express shipments.
And for pets who prefer to travel with fellow pets, there is PetAirways, an airline dedicated to short-haul pet transport to Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, New York, Los Angeles, Omaha, Phoenix, and Baltimore/Washington.