As guests have packed their bags and left home for summer travel following a few years of pandemic-caused pent-up demand, some travelers haven’t shown up in hotel occupancy figures.
More pets have joined their owners on leisure trips since the start of the pandemic, especially in the summer months, according to hoteliers.
According to a 2021 study by the non-profit American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. households have brought home either a cat or dog since the beginning of the pandemic. Another study found that out of all U.S. pet owners, 78% acquired their pet during the pandemic.
Hoteliers say the uptick in pet ownership has been reflected in guests traveling with a furry friend.
“During the pandemic and social distancing, we all learned how pets are such crucial companions,” Amy Arbuckle, general manager at the W San Francisco, said in an email interview. “As a result, we have seen a number of guests traveling with their dogs, more so than before.”
Larry Crosby, general manager of The Foundry Hotel Asheville in Asheville, North Carolina, said his hotel has also welcomed a strong increase in travelers with pets over the past few years.
“I’d say the likely reason for that is that attachment you have with your pet; traditionally you might have traveled a lot more often without them, but now that we have this travel rush, this new golden age of travel where people had a lot of pent-up demand and looking to get out, [travelers] are looking to go into those experiences themselves and with their pets,” he said.
Improved Pet Amenities
Ed Robison, senior vice president of owner relations and development at HP Hotels, a third-party hotel management company, said in an email interview that many major hotel brands have recently updated their pet policies as a response to the increase in pet travel.
“Most of our hotels now allow guests with pets. As a result, we have improved or introduced new pet amenity programs. Outside of the usual amenities of the designated relief areas and walking maps, some hotels are offering welcome gifts for pets, have added pet-friendly items in their shops, and have listings available at the front desks for on-site pet services,” he said.
The Foundry is launching a “Pup-Parazzi” package this month that includes a branded bandana, a dog beer, a dog-friendly hike, and a one-hour photography session around the property and downtown, Crosby said. The bonus package will be in conjunction with the basic pet amenities offered by the hotel, including a doggy bag, a ball toy, and a bag of treats.
The W San Francisco opened five “Spectacular Studio” suites in collaboration with Skylab Architecture in March that are specifically tailored to pet owners. The suites have a tented structure extension connected to the room that gives guests more room to lounge and enjoy the standard pet amenities, which include a welcome box, dog leash, treats, and a map of local dog parks, provided by the hotel, Arbuckle said.
Matt McAtee, regional director of operations for McNeill Hotel Company, said in an email interview that the Tennessee-based third-party management company took part in a pet panel with Hilton to improve pet cleaning methods. The new program has been a huge success in quickly preparing pet-friendly rooms for new guests, he said.
Hilton has also expanded its partnership with Mars Petcare in the past year to improve pet experiences at its hotels.
“Through these expanded partnerships, guests will have access to virtual support from the Mars Pet expert team and have more than 4,600 pet-friendly hotels to choose from. We continue to double down on the importance of the guest experience and their stay,” Chris Nasetta, president and CEO of Hilton, said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call.
Occupancy, Rate Increases With Pet Amenities
Some hoteliers said that providing pet amenities at their specific hotel has helped boost both occupancy and rates.
McAtee said McNeill hotels have realized an increase in occupancy and revenue from pet-friendly rooms due to the amenities they supply.
The W San Francisco has also had an increase in occupancy among pet owners recently, especially on the weekends, Arbuckle said.
“These amenities are crucial for weekenders and local road warriors who are looking to get away specifically within the drive market. We found that during the pandemic travelers valued being able to travel with their fur family. With a focus on [bleisure] and longer stays it was important for us to provide comfort for all travelers,” she said.
Providing guests of boutique and high-end hotels with unique experiences and amenities is expected, and tailoring offerings toward pet owners is just an extension of that mindset, Crosby said. He said The Foundry gets an increase in occupancy from offering pet amenities and has a $150-per-night pet fee.
“We at least have people that may not have booked if they couldn’t have their pet with them, and that helps with booking and filling unsold rooms,” he said. “It’s just one of the things that’s expected from the standpoint that you’ll at least offer it, and so I do believe that it has helped affirm rates that we have and can command.”