Fetching dog lovers for tail-wagging profits.

I always say; “there are riches in niches,” and with over 70 million dogs in U.S. households—according to the American Veterinary Medical Association—being dog friendly is a growing opportunity for hoteliers.

A recent TripAdvisor pet travel survey of more than 1,000 U.S. animal owners revealed that 49 percent of participants planned to travel with their pets in the next twelve months. Among the group, 56 percent say they intend to stay in hotels.

For many of us our pets, particularly dogs, have become full fledge family members. Many in fact, consider dogs their kids. A trend researchers call “humanization”—which means pet owners are highly receptive to pet products similar to the ones they use themselves. As such, it is hardly surprising that guests want to take Fido along when they travel. And more and more hotels are happy to oblige.

Dogs are the most common pet hotel guests, and hotels are courting their owners with gimmicks like doggy reiki, pet-a-cures, pet psychics, surfing and certified pet sitters. All are meant to show that dogs are not only welcome—they are wanted.

As hoteliers, we’ve come a long way from providing bags and loaner pooper scoopers.

Kimpton Hotels has truly set the bar as the pet friendly hotel company, welcoming any pet, regardless of size, weight or breed, for no additional fees or deposits. What if you don’t have a pet? Your Kimpton hotel can supply you with one in the form of a loaner gold fish—a service Kimpton calls Guppy Love.

Kimpton offers their guests a variety of amenities and services—treats and water bowls in the lobby, a “pet concierge” to direct guests to nearby dog parks and dog-friendly restaurants, an in-room welcome basket (with a ball, a box of mini biscuits and a Cain & Able peppermint “between baths” spray), in-room doggie beds, doggie room service menus. and even “Yappy Hour” where guests and their pets mingle over cocktails.

In New York, The Muse Hotel‘s doggie amenity bag—which guests get to keep—includes a water bowl, organic treats, a squeak toy, a pooper scooper, a leash, a special Do Not Disturb sign to let the staff know your pet is in the room, and The New York Paws—a guide to area parks, shops, pet sitters and animal hospitals. They even provide pet pedometers so you and Fido know how far you’ve trekked around the city.

It all seems to be resonate with guests, as Kimpton reports that more than 100,000 pets stay in one of their 60 hotels each year.

While Kimpton may be have been the early leader in the “cat-egory”—sorry, but I just can’t help myself—the majority of hoteliers are now pursuing the pet lover demographic.

Shortly after arriving at the Viceroy Riviera Maya in Mexico, dogs are blessed by a shaman as he circles them with burning incense. Afterward, the dog receives a garland of shells and flowers and can retire to a miniature palapa.

At the Essex Resort & Spa in Burlington, Vermont, canine theme weekends allow guests to spend the days hiking dog-friendly trails and learning how to bake dog biscuits.

The Benjamin hotel in New York offers canine guests an in-room “pooch mini bar.”

At the Gansevoort Hotel in New York, it’s a Lacoste Polo and Gansevoort-branded harness known as a puppy purse.

It’s not only the boutique and independent hotels who are pursuing pet owners either.

Choice Hotels have 3,400 pet friendly hotels worldwide. In fact, the company has a special page on their website that lets travelers search for pet-friendly hotels by location, and also features a list of dog-friendly cities, top dog parks, and pet-friendly travel tips. The Napa Winery Inn for example—part of Choice’s Ascent Hotel Collection—offers a Pamper Your Pet package.

Motel 6, La Quinta, and other limited service brands have adopted consistent pet policies that allow pets to stay free.

Bottomline, it’s a niche that continues to grow. A higher percentage of hotels permit pets—61% according to a recent survey by AH&LA, which is up from 52% from the previous year. As further proof, more than 20,500 hotels on Travelocity are listed as pet friendly.

Want to catch your fair share? Here are a few tips for fetching dog lovers.

Stay engaged
In all outlets where you have a presence, from your website and social media to pet-friendly travel websites such as DogFriendly.com, PetFriendlyDigs.com, PetsWelcome.com, TripsWithPets.com, and BringFido.com.

Recruit partners
Be on the lookout for partnership and sponsorship opportunities with organizations who love, support and rescue dogs.

No surprises
Make sure that your pet policies are clearly defined and understood by your entire team. Guests want assurances that their pet will be truly welcome at check-in, with no embarrassing moments or surprises. This is especially true as it relates to rate. Be certain that your reservations team, website, and other channels share the total price at the time of booking.

As I’ve said many times here, this is the very essence of hospitality marketing—Identifying consumer trends, and crafting programs that meet or exceed guest expectations while providing a tangible opportunity to differentiate the organization, hotel or resort from the competition.

What consumer trends have you and your organization identified, and what programs have you introduced to take full advantage of the opportunity? I’d love to hear from you.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 at 11:51 am and is filed under Creativity and Innovation, Strategy . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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