Pampered pets are now big business and many owners want to share their vacations with their four-legged friends. Are you ready for it?
Pets are in the news. ‘Cats get cream at 5-star hotels’ screamed the banner headline in the UK Sunday Times, 22 November 2015. In a world that’s becoming increasingly pet-centric, they highlighted special cat hotels where the favoured felines are said to enjoy four-poster beds, large tv screens (showing swimming fish), indoor gyms and health spas!
Spending on pets in Britain has mushroomed to $7bn (£4.6bn) a year, according to Euromonitor. And it’s not restricted to the UK: Americans spent $2.8bn on edible dog treats alone in 2014. But then 65% of U.S. households own a pet which means you’ll find our furry friends in no less than 79.7 million American homes.
Pet owners not prepared to be parted
With pets now playing such an important part in our lives, this can present problems when it comes to vacation time. People like to have their pets with them 24/7 and some are not prepared to be parted.
Last year, the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper noted that: ‘A third of pet owners are choosing holidays in the UK so they can ensure their pets are with them and one in ten admit to cutting breaks short because they feel guilty about leaving their animals behind. In London the number that have done so is even higher, with a quarter of owners cutting short or cancelling holidays because of their pets.’
I’m sure it’s no different in many countries, America included.
I counted three dogs in the lobby of a big hotel where I made an overnight stay last week. My friend left their dog behind in kennels as we wrongly assumed they would not take animals.
All of the above suggests that many of your potential guests are keen on their pets. More important, they are willing to spend considerable amounts of money in securing their comfort and happiness. Now they are actively seeking out vacation accommodation that not only caters for but actively welcomes their animals.
Are you prepared for pets?
But are you as a vacation rental owner prepared? Do you even want the extra hassle of providing a dog or cat friendly environment? Or the policing of potential damage and wear and tear to your property?
Before you dismiss it out of hand, just consider the numbers. Opening up to pet owners could increase the appeal of your property and widen the potential market.
We were suggesting this strategy as far back as March 2014. And that was before we heard of a luxury cat hotel (Ings of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire) where pet owners will reputedly pay upwards of $27 (£18) a day to board their cat. That same cat can enjoy a salmon-flavoured ‘pinacatlada’ cocktail with king prawns and caviar for just $6 (£4).
The lengths pet owners will go to to indulge their animals was revealed in a survey by PetPlan insurance which found that 10 per cent of owners had attended a ‘pet party’ and almost as many had created a Facebook page for their pet!
Formulate your own pets policy
Much of what I said in my blog back in 2014 still applies today. Maybe more so. If you decide to open up to the possibilities, begin by formulating a pets policy. And make it one that you’re happy with.
If you don’t want someone’s Great Dane slobbering over your white sofa, limit your tolerance to small breeds and make sure guests are aware of any special damage/wear and tear conditions. To protect your white sofa, limit animal access to certain rooms only. Guests should respect these conditions as, generally speaking, they themselves would normally restrict the dog’s behaviour in their own homes.
Accepting animals is one thing, encouraging them another. I’ll never forget a jaunty little sign outside a picturesque pub in a pretty English village: ‘Dogs and children welcome’. They were indeed welcome but restricted – to a grim little outhouse in the garden!
But if you actively encourage pets, it can pay off. Highlight the welcome on your website. Point up the benefits offered to pet owners. You could even provide a kitty/pooch kit with bed, bowl and complimentary treats.
Think in terms of attractions for your furry guests. The Ings exclusive Cat Hotel we mentioned earlier for instance, boasts 12 suites each with a balcony overlooking a wildlife area!