Becoming a Petfriendly Establishment

dog-on-lionshead_lightboxHOW TO BECOME A PETFRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION ESTABLISHMENT

The hospitality market is expanding all the time, and many guesthouse owners are forced to look for new ways to generate income, especially during the winter months and off-season periods. Making your establishment petfriendly is one way of attracting more guests to you during these quiet times. More and more people are travelling with their pets these days and there are many opportunities open to hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs wanting to cash in on this potentially lucrative niche market. However, going the petfriendly route presents both pros and cons, which need to be considered before any decisions are made.

Apart from pet-proofing your establishment, a key factor to consider is whether you, your family and your staff are allergy-free and truly love animals. If you have your own pets, this may help, but it may also give you more factors to consider - such as whether they are well-socialised and willing to allow other animals onto their property. Can you ensure that they will be controllable or that they can be separated from visiting pets if necessary?

Once you have considered space restrictions, noise issues, potential damage to your property and the welfare of guests and you still decide to go the petfriendly route, make sure that you advertise this unique selling point (USP) and that you make it part of your overall marketing strategy. By letting people know that you are a petfriendly establishment, you are able to attract a growing group of (mostly affluent) pet owners who take their pets along on holidays and trips. 

The next step is to set some guidelines and establishment rules, which we refer to as a Pet Policy. It specifies pet etiquette, limitations (if any) imposed on visiting pets and special facilities, services and amenities offered. For example, some petfriendly accommodation establishments limit one pet per stay and others only permit small pets. Some prefer cats and caged animals like birds or snakes. Although some establishments charge, a refundable Doggie Damages Deposit and/or a fee for accommodation per pet per night, most allow pets to stay free. Some places even arrange services like dog-walking and dog-sitting, as well as providing gifts, treats and special meals for pets.

Guesthouse owners are often (justifiably) concerned that their beautiful, immaculate premises will be ruined by four-legged guests yet, there are many pet owners who prefer upmarket establishments. Pet owners travelling with their pets express their concern that many of the places that do allow pets are not particularly petfriendly - either in terms of the facilities and services offered or in terms of the actual structure, design and layout of the place. With a bit of planning and creative thought, steps can be taken to please everyone and cater for their needs. By making your property more petfriendly, you can keep all your guests happy, whether they have two legs or four!

Did You Know?
A survey conducted by BringYourPet.com in the USA revealed that, the majority of pet owners will extend their stay, (which benefits guesthouses financially), when they are allowed to bring their pet along. Instead of spending the money on expensive boarding or kennel facilities, most people prefer to just take their pet along when they can and use the money saved to extend the length of their holiday or select a more expensive accommodation option. Similar findings have been noted in South Africa.

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Tips on how to make your Guest Accommodation Petfriendly
  • Always request that visiting pet/s have been treated for fleas and ticks, are clean, house-trained, socialised and well behaved. Quiet, older, calm pets are generally easier to accommodate than extremely lively, young, boisterous dogs who bark incessantly. Although you may be tempted to discriminate in terms of size - unless you absolutely do not have the space, consider the fact that many large and giant breed dogs make better guests than some tiny ones. If the dog has been trained and has passed a Canine Good Citizen test, they are most likely to be better guests than those who haven't undergone any kind of obedience training etc.
  • You should also request that pet/s are up-to-date on all their shots, including rabies. Rabies is endemic in KZN, but you need to vaccinate pets in all provinces.
  • Depending on the situation, you could ask guests to keep their dog/s leashed at all times while on your premises.
  • You may also require the guest to bring a crate, basket, or cage for the pet and sheets or blankets for draping over your furniture.
  • You may want to ask that the pet’s eating and lounging quarters are confined to the outside patio, stoep or kitchen/bathroom area.
  • It is crucial that you let potential guests know if you have an enclosed garden/run, outside shelter, grounds for roaming or access to walks nearby. A fenced garden (if only a small area) with shelter/a kennel is always a hit. This enables people to leave their pets behind sometimes, for example, when they go out sightseeing since many tourist attractions and restaurants do not allow dogs. All you need is a paved area with a small piece of lawn and a small patch of loose sand (to bury a bone or do a pee or poo). Paving is practical, easy to clean and water-wise. Don't put in too many prize plants and although dogs and cats rarely ingest plants that are poisonous, it is best to avoid known killers. You could plant pennyroyal near the kennel or patio to repel fleas and ants.
Did You Know?
  • A recent survey conducted by Petfriendly, revealed that the overwhelming majority of people who travel with their pets see an enclosed garden or run as essential and is a major drawcard.
  • Invest a bit of money and equip your accommodation with a few basics, which will be appreciated by your guests at minimal cost to you. These include a poop scoop (crucial if you want guests to scoop the poop as they are not the easiest things to travel with), some plastic bags (also for poop), and an outside kennel. Other extras such as dog beds, bowls, leashes and even pet food could also be provided or even sold to pet-owning guests.
  • In consideration of other guests, most establishments stress that any pets wanting to stay over, require prior approval. Guests must be made to understand that they cannot simply arrive with pets as you will generally have to make special arrangements to accommodate them, especially if you have other guests and/or your own pets to think about.
  • You could even draw up a pet liability release form in which you reserve the right to request alternative overnight accommodation for the pet if the situation warrants it.
  • Always bear in mind that many accommodation establishments are your and your family's home and thus the needs of all inhabitants must be considered. A home includes people of all ages as well as pets and just as special care must be taken for it to be safe and user-friendly to children, so pets, our four-legged family members, need to be considered when building and/or decorating a house. Creating a petfriendly home or accommodation establishment is essential for both safety and style. You don't have to compromise on cleanliness or appearance and it is possible to allow pets (visitors or permanent residents) AND have a tidy, fashionable and attractive home with good quality furniture and accessories as well as pets.
  • It is possible to design and furnish your home or guesthouse so as to prevent pet damage and to lessen the irritation created by finding pet hair on beds, couches, carpets and curtains. If pet hair is a problem, you may need to invest in a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner.
  • It is not necessary to allow pets free reign and you can use gates and other barriers to confine them or limit their access to certain parts of your home or establishment. Simply close the door or use a child-gate or other barrier to block off areas.

Petfriendly Tip:

Most guesthouses and B&Bs prohibit an animal being left unattended in the rooms, so petfriendly guesthouse owners may want to find out about a day kennel close by and suggest this to your guests. This is one of the things that is rated highly by people who travel with their pets, and that certainly can influence their choice of destination.

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