Why are hotels becoming more pet-friendly?

Hotel Management Consultancy

Are you one of the many people who welcomed new pets during 2020? You’re not alone.

The UK reported in March that 3.2 million households (11% of British households) have brought in a new pet since the start of the pandemic, with around 74% of new owners saying their pets had helped their mental health during such a trying time. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) around 20% of American households acquired a new pet since the pandemic began. In Japan, births in the country are the lowest they’d been since 1950, but pet ownership has risen exponentially, leading some to suggest that the country is replacing children with pets!

What does all this mean for hospitality? With the increase in pet ownership, as well as the increase in staycations and domestic travel, more and more hotels are offering pet-friendly stays and services to entice guests.

If people don’t feel they can travel as easily with a pet, they are less likely to do so; but with the offer of a pet-friendly hotel stay, the opportunity is there for both the customer and the hotel. People are also travelling differently now: taking longer vacations because of travel restrictions, working from hotels or having a staycation, and prioritising domestic travel over holidays abroad. All of this points to the need for accommodating animal guests.

Of course, there are pros and cons to this new arrangement. Guests who don’t like animals or have allergies may be put off, extra cleaning will be required, and there are risks of disruption if the pet is large, loud, or aggressive. On the other hand, there are reports that animals can actually entice customers, enhancing brand perception, while some animals, such as dogs, also benefit from being socialised.

New pet-friendly hotels around the world

Hilton’s long stay accommodations recently announced they are becoming 100% pet friendly: “New data from a KRC Research survey shows that 85% of pet owners plan to travel within the next year. Among those same pet owners, 65% plan to bring their pets along on their trips.” Changes to Hilton’s long-stay accommodations include new pet-friendly amenities, allowing pets in guest rooms as well as public areas, plus consolidating pet fees to USD50 per stay across the entire North American portfolio (previously, pet fees varied by hotel).

In India, holidaying with pets is also becoming popular. Luxury holiday home chain Vista Rooms states the second most searched term on the website is “pet-friendly” (the first is “swimming pool”), while the South Asia regional manager of Booking.com announced the website has introduced a pet-friendly filter to help meet demand for those searching for pet-friendly hotels.

Here in Thailand, the Kimpton Maa-Lai, Bangkok, which opened its doors in October 2020, doesn’t just stop at traditional pets. “‘We get it all, and not just dogs and cats,’ said the hotel’s general manager Patrick Both, as the lobby filled with a menagerie of furry guests. ‘Also ferrets, birds, rabbits … and one very expensive chicken,’ he added with a chuckle. ‘Our policy is, if it can fit in an elevator, it’s allowed.’” Having quickly established a reputation as Bangkok’s most pet-friendly hotel, The Kimpton Maa-Lai recently launched a pet-themed ice cream selection at the hotel’s cafe, CRAFT. The ice creams, shaped like dogs and cats, are strictly for human consumption, though there is a separate sweets menu for four-legged customers.

Elsewhere in Thailand, Marriott is rolling out a new P.A.W. (Pets Are Welcome) philosophy at selected Marriott hotels and resorts for Marriott Bonvoy members. Perks for pets include complimentary food bowls and pet beds, welcome packs with toys and treats, Sunday meetups with other pets in outdoor spaces, as well as pet strollers and pet-sitting services (for an additional charge). Pet fees are being waived until 2022.

Existing pet-friendly hotels

Of course, many hotels were welcoming to animals before the pandemic pet boom, even in the luxury sector. Rosewood Hong Kong’s Four Legged Friends package includes sumptuous pet beds, toys, a curated gourmet pet menu, owner-and-pet yoga, a photo session, and a guide to local dog-friendly restaurants, bars and parks – plus, the hotel donates USD500 to SPCA Hong Kong for every Four Legged Friends booking.

Japan is well known as a destination where furry friends are treated like true royalty. For example, Japan’s Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort & Spa welcomes three pets up to 10 kilograms each, or one pet up to 30 kilograms, all for no additional fee. Some rooms come with dog showers, dryer and a pet enclosure on the balcony, while pet sitting and grooming services are available. The Hyatt brand is known for its love of pets, and many of its hotels around the world feature resident dogs and cats.

Similarly, Korea’s pet-friendly hotels also go above and beyond. Vivaldi Park in Hongcheon County has a separate building for guests staying with pets, with modified details such as non-slip flooring for scampering around, low beds for jumping on, playgrounds for pets, veterinary clinics, and pet salons. The hotel reports that they are consistently 90% full on weekends.

Are four-legged guests here to stay?

For hotels, it makes sense to pivot to accommodate pets where possible to attract more customers, especially as many potential guests are new pet owners. There’s also evidence that people are spending more on their pets than ever before, so the hospitality sector can capitalise on this trend by not only accommodating pets out of tolerance, but by appealing specifically to pet owners and offering pet packages like those listed above, including treats, activities, and other amenities.

As the lines are becoming more and more blurred between work, home and travel – from staycations to working from hotels – hotels must adapt to this new hybrid lifestyle.