Hotels are always looking for new ways to attract guests, particularly during the busy summer travel season. As a result, more and more hotels are allowing guests to bring their pets with them when they vacation.
In fact, AAA estimates that the number of hotels that accept pets has increased by 28 percent since 2003.
Considering that the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) has found that more than 29 million Americans take trips of more than 50 miles with their pets, lenient pet policies have the potential to mean big business to those hotels that cater to animals. But accommodating guests and their pets has come with a learning curve to which thousands of hoteliers across America have had to adapt.
“There are more families traveling with their pets today than there were a few years ago,” said Andrew Crum, general manager of the Hampton Inn Eastgate in Cincinnati, Ohio. “People who travel with their animals think of their pets as their family, and want to stay in places where they can keep their pet with them when they travel.”
According to TIA, of those pet friendly travelers, 80 percent bring their dog; 15 percent bring their cat; and the remaining percent bring birds, ferrets, rabbits or fish. The pet policy at the Hampton Inn Eastgate allows for small pets up to 50 pounds of any species from dogs and cats to boa constrictors, mice and parrots.
But there are challenges associated with accepting even the smallest canine, feline, reptilian or winged friends. Challenges Crum has faced range from the expected—occasional noise complaints or guests who bring their animals with them to the breakfast bar in the morning—to the expensive.
“We’ve had a few bad experiences,” Crum recalled. “We’ve had dogs that haven’t been kenneled and have chewed through bedspreads, torn holes in the carpet, scratched the door and destroyed a box spring mattress.”
Debra Bullock, director of housekeeping for the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colo. has experienced similar problems. “We’ve had to replace the duvet covers, sheets and terry products in our guest rooms,” she said. “We’ve also had housekeeping go to clean a room, open the door and have a dog escape into the hotel. That was definitely a challenge!”
Some of Crum’s animal experiences have been a bit more exotic. “We had guests staying with us once who kept their parrot in their room,” Crum continued. “The cage wasn’t properly latched, and when housekeeping entered the room to clean it, the bird got loose into the hotel. We ended up chasing the parrot around the hotel for about an hour before we finally caught it with a pillow case.”
Cleaning up after hotel guests and their pets is also a challenge that hoteliers must face. Housekeeping practices often have to be adjusted to accommodate pet owners.
“Carpet and upholstery—that is usually where we experience the most problems,” Bullock said. “Dog hair gets all over the place, so we often have to vacuum repeatedly. If a dog urinates in the room, the carpet usually has to be shampooed several times to get the smell out. We use an enzyme-based cleaner to get all the way down to the pad, but the smell stays for a while. We will usually keep a room out of order until we can completely remove the smell.”
Crum said that the thorough cleaning policy of the Hampton Inn helps to eliminate cleaning problems caused by pets. “Our carpets are shampooed bi- monthly, and all of our bedcovers—sheets, pillowcases, blankets and duvets—are washed daily with Tide, Clorox and Downy products, which rid sheets of any lingering odors,” Crum said. “We also use Febreze, which helps to eliminate odors left in the room.”
Clearly, allowing pets into their properties has great profit potential for hoteliers. “As the number of travelers with pets continues to rise, it becomes even more essential for hoteliers to have quality, high-performing cleaning programs in place,” said Craig Monsell of the P&G Pro Line Lodging Program, an on-premise laundry and in-room cleaning program that is designed to increase guest satisfaction.
“With cleanliness always being paramount in the guest satisfaction quotient, hoteliers must effectively address the unique cleaning challenges posed by pets,” said Monsell. “A cleaning program built around trusted brands that offer outstanding performance and get the job done right the first time can go far in addressing these challenges.”