'Furkids' lap up creature comforts at pet hotels
SINGAPOREAN Estelle Tayler, 31, is a frequent traveller. While she has not had problems seeking comfortable accommodation when she is away from home, the same cannot be said for her beloved dog, Bobo.
"The (pet)-boarding services either didn't offer what I wanted for Bobo or the environment they were situated in would cause problems such as ticks," explained Ms Tayler of her difficulty in finding a good hotel for her 31/2-year-old English Bulldog.
So she set up The Wagington, a 4,317 sq ft pet hotel housed in a bungalow in Loewen Road.
The Wagington, which Ms Tayler bills as "the first luxury pet hotel and resort in Singapore", will open later this month.
It boasts 27 air-conditioned "suites" of various sizes, ranging from the Royal Suite, which can house up to three dogs depending on size, to the over 15 sq ft Junior Suites for smaller canines. It can cater to a maximum of about 40 dogs (daycare and residence) and 12 cats.
There are luxury fittings such as chandeliers, and even a 32-inch LED TV set in the 96 sq m Royal Suite.
Out back, dogs can chill in a bone-shaped pool. They can also romp around the Doghill Garden, which is laid out in hypoallergenic artificial turf.
The dogs will sleep on soft, faux-leather orthopaedic beds that come with blankets.
The dogs are helped to look the part too, as there is a grooming service, which also offers spa treatments such as mud masks and aromatherapy facial and head massage.
There are seven full-time staff on hand, including one on the night shift "so dogs will be given round-the-clock care", added Ms Tayler.
Depending on the room type and size of the dogs, rates begin at $115 per dog a night for a Junior Suite to $350 a dog a night for the Royal Suite.
Owners who miss their pets can keep an eye on their "furkids" through a 24-hour webcam service.
Despite the steep rates, there appears to be a market for a service that pulls out all the stops for pampered pooches and kitties.
"My family will spend on such luxurious pet hotels when we go for a holiday as our dog is very precious to us," said Angeline Low, 19. "When we are on a holiday, we want to know that she is having a holiday too."
The Wagington appears to be tapping into growing demand for higher-end pet-boarding services, particularly as more well-heeled Singaporeans are keen to ensure a higher standard of care for their pets.
For instance, Petopia, located in Seletar Hills, had only 12 rooms when it opened in 2010. Its monthly occupancy rate was about 60 to 70 per cent then.
In 2012, it expanded its number of suites, and occupancy now stands at 80 per cent during off-peak periods. It is full house during peak periods.
"People come here because we have processes and systems in place, with staff who can do a good job," said Marcus Khoo, 41, executive director and co-founder of Petopia.
"We have services that people want under one roof.
"We are transparent in whatever we do. (They are there in) black and white. A lot of set-ups in Singapore don't have these and that's another reason why people might be willing to pay more."
With more than two floors of suites, Petopia can accommodate up to 50 guests. The rates range from $58 to $188, depending on the size of the dog.
During the day, Petopia's guests are supervised by staff in two spacious, air-conditioned playrooms, which are filled with soothing music and scented with essential oils.
A 24-hour webcam service is also available.
Yeow Shie Yng, 38, said: "When my husband and I are away on holiday, we need someone to help us take care of Nike (their dog).
"Petopia sees that Nike is walked and she's not cooped up. We found that it meets all our needs."
Besides lodging, Petopia provides services such as styling, transport, and spa and healing services.
However, not all dog owners are convinced by the trappings of luxury. In fact, many turn to home-boarding services, such as those listed on pawshake.com.sg
The rates vary - from $15 to about $60 a night - depending on the services offered, size of the dog and size of the home. Such no-frills services ensure that the dog is fed, toileted and sometimes exercised. But not all home boarders are licensed or insured.
"I wouldn't splurge on the expensive and luxurious boarding services," said Alvin Lim, 23. "I just need my dog to be safe and taken care of. I don't believe in spoiling my dog with all the extra services."