High-end hotels roll out the red carpet for pets

High-end hotels roll out the red carpet for pets

When Sophie travels to Paris, there is only one place to stay: The Castille, a five-star boutique hotel on the Rue Cambon, in the heart of the city's fashion district near the Place Vendome.

There she gets luxury bedding, special attention from the concierge, even custom-made treats from the kitchen, like boiled chicken or steak.

Sophie is a Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, a five-year-old hound.

Paris is hardly Sophie's only destination, though. The 4.5kg pooch has jetted to Barcelona, to the Spanish resort town of San Sebastian, even to the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she pranced through the lobby like she owned the place.

"I think she has earned her wings," says Sophie's owner Jody Miller-Young, a dog blogger and fashion editor. "Hotels always treat her like a queen."

It is part of a growing trend: Hotels are not only tolerating pets, but are actively courting pet owners by rolling out an impressive menu of pet-oriented amenities. Sixty per cent of US hotels now accept pets, according to a 2014 survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. That is up from 50 per cent in 2006.

And it is not just budget motels on the Interstate that are OK with putting Fluffy on the guest list. The industry segment with the highest percentage of hotels allowing pets: Luxury hotels, with 80 per cent.

Luxe chains like Kimpton, W and Loews are practically falling over themselves to appeal to the four-legged set.

Kimpton, for instance, offers loaner beds, hosts pet-friendly wine receptions, and appoints local Directors of Pet Relations (themselves dogs and cats, roaming hotel grounds).

The best part? No extra nightly charge for pets.

W Hotels does tack on a few fees for Fido, at US$25 (RM104, S$35) per night extra, with a US$100 (RM417) non-refundable cleaning fee. Included are complimentary toys, food-and-water bowls, bedding, floor mats and turndown treats, along with Pet-in-Room signs to let cleaning staff know what to expect.

Loews Hotels offers pets full welcome packages with chef-made delicacies, tailored room-service menus, even dog-surfing lessons at its Coronado Bay, California, location. Costs depend on the particular hotel, but are usually either a US$25 one-time service fee, or an additional US$25 per night. (And the surfing? US$80/RM334 an hour.) "The dominant industry trend is that pets are being treated as members of the family," says George Puro, an analyst in White Plains, New York, who authors the annual Pet Market Outlook for the research firm Packaged Facts.

"People want to travel with them. They don't want to leave them behind in kennels."

For hotels, it is a market too large to be ignored. There are roughly 79 million pet-owning homes in the United States, or 65 per cent of all households, according to the American Pet Products Association's National Pet Owners Survey.

Another factor at work: Pet lovers tend to be fairly well-heeled. According to Packaged Facts, 53.7 per cent of total pet-market expenditures come from households with more than US$70,000 (RM292,000) annually in income.

Photo: 123RF

Posh hotels are obviously aware of this data. Welcoming pets means more money in their pockets - fuelling bookings from pet owners who otherwise might stay home or stay elsewhere, and encouraging additional spending, thanks to their precious pooches.

"Higher-income pet owners are more likely to pamper their pets, especially on services," says Puro. "That is why higher-end hotels are interested in catering to them." And there seems to be no bounds to the amenities. When retired Wall Street Journal editor David Crook travelled to The Point a few years ago - a "super private, super posh former Rockefeller camp on Lake Saranac in the Adirondacks," he says - there were no kids allowed.

Pets, though? Welcomed with open arms. That was good news for his Lil' Moe, a miniature pinscher.

"We get there, and there is a bed ready for the dog, dog dishes, even bottled water for him," says Crook, 62. "But we see no trash cans around the grounds, and ask the manager where we are supposed to put his poop. 'We'll take care of that,' he says."

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