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Demand for pet friendly hotels

AS TRAVELLERS TIGHTEN THE WALLET, THE FAMILY PET IS NO LONGER SENT TO THE KENNEL – THEY ARE STAYING IN 5-STAR HOTELS ALONG WITH THEIR OWNERS. HM TAKES AN INSIDE LOOK AT THIS GROWING TREND.

WORDS JAMES WILKINSON

In the global economic downturn, travellers are looking to cut back on costs wherever possible, from airfares to hotel room rates and car rental prices. But, what happens to the family pet?

Gone are the days where people were happy to spend upwards of $50 per day on boarding and the family dog or cat has become the hottest travel accessory – and hoteliers across Australia are welcoming them with open arms.

Charlie at The Observatory Hotel Sydney

At Sydney’s leading boutique hotels, several rooms are now decked out with not just a plush Sealy king size bed, but a place to sleep, bowl of kibble and water for cats and dogs of all sizes.

The Observatory Hotel and Medusa Hotel are two properties which have embraced pet stays for over ten years.

At the Medusa in Darlinghurst, which is part of boutique hotelier Terry Schwamberg’s Contemporary Hotels collection, dogs have been wagging their tails inside the hotel’s corridors since 1999.

“When Medusa first opened ten years ago, Katrina Warren was the pet presenter on Harry’s Practice and Channel Nine wanted to have Katrina and her pet dog Toby stay with us for one week per month,” Schwamberg said. “Having lived in Paris for a year and noticed boutique hotels such as Hotel Costes welcoming guest dogs, we decided to introduce it to Medusa and at the time, we had no idea it was one of the first luxury hotels to have such consideration.

“It’s not a dog hotel but we don’t discriminate against dogs as we don’t against children.  And we welcome our furry friends and have found that they are wonderful guests,” she said.

While some hotels charge extra for pooches, they are allowed to stay for free – of course as long as they behave.

“We don’t charge for dogs however we do recommend that the dogs are not left alone if their owners are out… we have facilities such as a pet nanny that can be utilised during their stay,” she said.

“As we don’t charge for dogs it’s not a lucrative thing – we don’t try to make money out of dogs – but we like to think the dogs give the owners as sense of joy, to other guests and staff within the hotel,” Schwamberg said.

Orient-Express Hotels Regional Managing Director Patrick Griffin said Sydney’s Observatory Hotel has welcomed pets since the property first opened 16 years ago.

“While there isn’t a huge demand for pet-friendly stays [at The Observatory], we do have a few regulars that have been bringing their pampered pets back year after year for many years,” he said.

“Mostly, we have welcomed pampered pooches and a few of the regulars include photogenic Charlie, Bubba the Maltese Terrier, and Chi-Chi and Paris, both Chihuahuas,” Griffin said.

At The Observatory where two rooms have been set aside for pets, visiting cats and dogs receive a pet bed and bowl and dine on a dinner chosen by their masters from a ‘Scooby Doo’ room service menu.

Down the street and on Sydney Harbour, The Sebel Pier One Sydney introduced pet friendly stays in late 2008.

“The Sebel Pier One Sydney recognised the demand for pet friendly accommodation within the Sydney hotel market and launched the De Vil Pamper Package in November 2008,” said The Sebel Pier One Sydney Sales and Marketing Manager, Amanda Patience.

Canines of all types and sizes are welcome at the 4.5-star Mirvac managed hotel, which has had ongoing success with the De Vil package – particularly over the current Australian winter.

“Due to the popularity of this package, The Sebel has recently launched the Pampered Pets Winter Escape Package,” Patience said. “The positive feedback has been overwhelming with many guests surprised that a CBD hotel caters for canines.

“All types of four legged canines have walked through the doors from golden retrievers to German shepherd and beagles to boxers,” she said.

Patience said the Winter Escape package includes a specially created doggie in-room dining service menu, a trampoline bed, dog water bowl, a spot lit LED clip-on safety light for the pet to take home and a convenient dog sitting service can be arranged on request for a small extra fee.

In South Australia, Hilton Adelaide is one of the few big-brand hotels in the country to allow dogs and for a $90 surcharge, pets can also experience the best that the 5-star hotel has to offer.

“Guests who have stayed with their pets have been very happy with being accommodated by a 5-star hotel and the amenities being provided for their pet,” said Hilton Adelaide General Manager Chris Ehmann.

“We do find though, that there is often the element of surprise that a 5-star city hotel offers the flexibility of travelling with your pet,” he said.

Hilton has a global policy on pet-friendly accommodation – primarily because of the United States market – and Ehmann said it was introduced at the hotel because it “really seemed to suit the ethos of our Adelaide property”.

“Pets staying in the hotel are provided with a bed, bowl and treats… the hotel location, right on Victoria square with plenty of grass and trees on our doorstep, also makes exercising pets staying in the hotel very convenient,” he said.

Ehmann said while the pet friendly bookings have not been one of the largest segments for the hotel, they are showing more potential as the year goes by.

“Whilst we don’t have a huge volume of pet stays, we are the only deluxe accommodation accepting pets in Adelaide and we are amazed by the reasons people have for traveling with their pet,” he said.

“Many guests are local and include reasons from celebrating their pet’s birthday with a weekend away to home renovations requiring short term alternate accommodation for the ‘whole’ family,” he said.

At the other end of the accommodation spectrum, holiday house website TakeABreak.com.au has noticed a surge in the amount of pet friendly bookings of late.

“We have found that bookings have continued to grow and with over a third of our searches at TakeABreak.com.au being in the pet friendly category we believe this will continue to be a winner for our operators,” said TakeABreak.com.au CEO, Penny Young.

“In a recent survey of visitors to the site it was established that an astonishing 60% had pets and enjoyed taking them on holidays, so it is something that operators have been encouraged to consider.

“This continues to highlight the popularity of this category and the great pleasure that guests get from being able to take their furry friends with them on holidays,” she said.

Out of the 12,000 properties on TakeABreak.com.au, Young said 20% are now listed in the pet-friendly category.

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