Recently yours truly was invited to speak at the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau to a group of both well-established and newly growing businesses. What they had in common is the desire to become more pet friendly. Having traveled with dogs for 16 years and working for the leading magazine in dog travel, I rejoiced at the opportunity. What I shared with the group of executives applies also the readers of this blog and our magazine. Welcome my dog, make my dog feel special and customers are going to remember these special amenities and want to return.
I used to joke that my dog has better health insurance then me and his haircuts cost more, but it’s the truth and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How many of you, when calling a hotel or facility to ask if they are pet friendly ask something like this, “Hi. Can you tell me if you allow pets?”
How many of you ask, “Hello, are you pet welcoming?”
What’s the difference?
Pet Tolerant: Allowing dogs the privilege to stay but without many amenities. I checked into a hotel once that said there were pet amenities. The carpet-less room was their featured amenity for pets. I never forgot that, in a negative way.
Pet Welcoming: A dog is treated like the family member he or she is. How so? Things like an in-room massage, spa robe, chic designer bowls, toys, towels, natural organic treats, doggy bed fold-down, offer of pet sitting, list of dog-welcoming events or activities, access to al fresco restaurant seating and/or doggie menus, provided doggie bowls, and of course, a free copy of a magazine with dogs in mind, so I know where else to go and see with my furry friend. I never forget when businesses extend themselves to my dog. I return time and again. Does my dog know? Probably not, but I do. And I do the spending.
More and more hotels, bed and breakfasts and businesses are becoming Fido welcoming and rolling out the red carpet to dogs. Even the mats so many of us place in front of our homes beckon “Welcome.” We want visitors to our home to instantly feel a friendly ambience long before entering. The same goes with the mindset of people spending their hard earned dollars at hotels that welcome dogs. We want to feel welcome.
Someone in the Pocono Mountain seminar group shared, “The economy is bad and people aren’t traveling with their pets, right?”
On the contrary, as the U.S. Census Bureau study of the retail segment of the economy showed 2009 down overall versus 2008, but the pet industry itself remained up yet again. Where most sectors are struggling to simply stay afloat, the pet industry is one of the fastest-growing with a projected 4.9% increase in spending to $47.74 billion in 2010.The Travel Industry Association of America says 78% of vacationing pets are dogs.
Of course, travel also depends on budget. There is something for everyone’s budget, including glamping, which is glamorous camping for those who like the outdoors but not necessarily a sleeping bag.
Wonder how popular pet travel is? Check out this Google search of “pet restraint travel.” As of this writing, there are close to a quarter million results. Companies like Bergan, Kurgo, and other big names are selling pet safety and restraint products with travel in mind. Where are all these dogs going??? They are traveling with their families.
The pet policy at Comfort Inn Ocean’s Edge in Belfast Maine stands out to me. According to the hotel’s website, “Dogs are welcome in this hotel. We’ve never had a dog that smoked in bed and set fire to the blankets. We’ve never had a dog who stole the towels, played the TV too loud or had a fight with his traveling companion. We’ve never had a dog who got drunk and broke up the furniture. So, if your dog can vouch for you, you’re welcome, too!”
Keep on eye on Fidose of Reality for travels with dogs and just how very welcoming many places are….