If your resort is aiming to be or claims to be luxury-lifestyle, then you’re going to need to think about how to cater to pets. Though it’s not as common in the Caribbean due to restrictive import permit requirements, it is becoming more and more usual as many hotels and resorts have ownership components to their offerings. If you’re trying to sell million + dollar villa vacation lifestyles in the Caribbean, saying no to pets is a no-no.
PETS AS A MARKETING OPPORTUNITY
There’s a reason cat and dog photos and videos and so popular on the internet. People love their pets and companies that cater to pets easily earn loyalty. It’s no different with the hospitality industry. What once began as an experiment at their Vancouver property in 2001, Fairmont now has ‘canine ambassadors’ throughout their properties to give it a more ‘homey’ feel (which also speaks to changing nature of luxury as quality over formality).
And of course you can count on the fact that those canine ambassadors are now social media celebrities as people share their images with their favorite hotel pets in a way that’s far more compelling and emotionally resonant than paid advertising.
Luxury Le Bristol in Paris features a ‘feline friend’ on their website homepage: “As charming as all our staff are, they cannot compete with the most popular member of Le Bristol Paris family, Fa-Raon the beautifully soft Burmese cat who can be spotted lounging around the hotel, and who adores being caressed and petted.”
Which is the perfect lead in to what follows next…
PETS AS MODERN LUXURY
“Le Bristol Paris is always delighted to accommodate pets, who are given a very special five-star welcome. Not content with pampering our own resident Burmese cat, Fa-Raon, the hotel offers a welcome pack to all its four-legged guests – including two bowls, a bottle of Evian mineral water, bone-shaped treats and a small rug embroidered with the name of the pet.”
Now THAT’S luxury because as we know, the post-modernization of luxury is all about personalization and appreciation as defined by the guest.
“It is very nice when you walk into a room and there is dog food and water bowls on the floor waiting for your pet,” says dog owner Shirley Braha. “Definitely makes you feel welcomed.” – as quoted in Architectural Digest.
There are plenty of examples of hotels doing this right:
The Milestone Hotel in London: upon arrival the pet receives a tailor made welcome hamper with a toy, treats, etc in addition to a welcome letter with information about all of the hotel’s special pet services such as pet beds with turndown service, dog walking and sitting services, grooming, cat and dog menus, and more.
The Roxy Hotel in NYC: Not only do they welcome pets with organic treats, bowls, and bedding, but if you find yourself unable to travel with your own four-legged companion you can call ahead to have pet goldfish waiting for you upon your arrival.
The Ritz-Carlton in Aruba, from their November 2017 press release: “Comfort is a priority, and dogs can now enjoy customized, mini plush pet cabanas with a personalized name plaque. These dog cabanas can be easily transported to the pool or the beach to offer shade and privacy. Pets are welcome at the hotel’s restaurants, and dogs’ owners can also select from a variety of customized gourmet menu options for their pets when ordering room service. The resort’s culinary team has created healthy house-made dog food and treats, using organic gourmet ingredients available at all the resort’s restaurants.”
We learned about the Ritz-Carolton in Aruba’s pet friendly policies through BringFido, an OTA specifically for dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and experiences. “Since launching in April 2005, BringFido.com has helped more than half a million people take their dog on vacation.”
Which brings us to our next point…
PETS AS A NUMBERS GAME
If you’re trying to sell villas and lifestyle resort stays to people who likely fly first class or in private / charter planes do you think telling them that your resort has a zero tolerance pet policy equates to a personalized luxury experience? Absolutely not. It’s going to let them know that you don’t understand who they are.
In just looking at the US market alone, 68% of all households in the country own a pet. Married people are 34% more likely to own a pet than non-married persons and Caucasians are 3x more likely to own a dog than non-whites and 5x more likely to own a cat. And most importantly to luxury resort target markets is the fact that those in the highest income brackets are significantly more likely to own cats and/or dogs (stats via Psychology Today).
Additionally, millennial and boomers are the generations with the highest percentage of pet ownership. “Boomers’ spending on their animal companions shows a commitment that exceeds both earlier and later generations. They are the driving force in the industry’s (as in Pet Spending Industry) spectacular growth.”
And speaking of the pet spending industry, it’s a huge one. Americans spend an annual total of $5.24 billion on pet services such as grooming and boarding. That’s not counting food, medical, or anything else. To put it into terms that we can all understand, “in 2011, households spent more on their pets annually than they spent on alcohol ($456)” – via Smart Asset.
And specifically with regards to hospitality and travel, consider the boarding aspect: a 2010 New York Times article cited a couple who estimated that they spent $15,000 per year on a combination of dog walkers during workdays and dog camp during the couple’s vacations. According to the article, kennels cost a minimum of $50 per night. Multiply that by the 10 days many Americans get to take as vacation days and that’s an additional $500 that could be spent elsewhere… perhaps by bringing your pet with you to a resort.
Clearly, there is a lot of opportunity here for hotels.
If you’re a luxury hotel in the Caribbean, especially one which has a real estate component, catering to pets is good marketing, adds another personalized luxury experience, and after seeing the numbers catering to pets on property is just common sense.