Hotels seek furry guests
AN INCREASING number of hotels are now targeting a new clientele: Pets that accompany their owners on vacation.
At the Essex Resort and Spa in Vermont, new canine-themed weekend deals allow guests to spend the days hiking woodsy trails with their pets and learning how to bake (dog biscuits, that is).
In New York, hotels have gone the extra mile to cater to the furry companions of their guests: New pet pedometers at the Muse Hotel and pooch minibars at the Benjamin, while Lacoste polo shirts for dogs will be coming soon to Gansevoort hotels.
As pets have evolved into family members - a trend that market researchers refer to as "humanisation" - it is hardly surprising that people want to take them along when they travel. And more and more hotels are happy to oblige.
"We have definitely seen growth in pet-friendly hotels over the past several years, and currently more than 20,500 hotels on Travelocity's site are listed as pet friendly," said Ms Courtney Scott, senior editor at Travelocity.com.
Dogs are the most common pet hotel guests, and hotels have courted their owners for years with gimmicks like doggy reiki and surfing. But, increasingly, such bells and whistles are becoming just one part of more elaborate hotel pet programmes meant to show travellers that dogs are not merely allowed - they are wanted.
Hotels are offering packages that are both whimsical ("pet-icures" and pet psychics) and practical (pooper scoopers and pet-sitting).
In North Carolina, the Ritz-Carlton has in-house branded doggy beds. And at the Muse in Manhattan, the chef is developing a room-service menu for dogs.
Guests staying with pets at the Muse, part of the Kimpton chain, receive an amenity bag, the size of which depends on the breed of your dog, that includes a water bowl, organic treats, a squeak toy, a pooper scooper, a leash, a special "do not disturb" sign and The New York Paws, a guide to area parks, shops, pet-sitters and animal hospitals.
Such events can make for strange and delightful evenings. But do these marketing tactics really win new customers?
"It's gimmicky, but people have fun with it," said Mr Mike DeFrino, chief operating officer of the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group, who estimated that more than 100,000 pets stay in Kimpton's 60 hotels each year.
But it's not just dog owners who are being catered to. Even petless guests are invited to be pet owners for a night.
At any Kimpton hotel, guests can have a goldfish in a bowl delivered to their room, a service known as Guppy Love.