Tuesday, September 16, 2014

'Pet friendly' or just 'pet tolerant'?

Is that hotel you're considering really "pet friendly" or does it merely allow pets? There is a difference, and it can be significant.

These days, many of us travel with our pets. The reasons are as varied as the breeds but hotel chains have, to a greater or lesser degree, embraced this phenomenon. However, an important facet to consider is, "How completely?"

To be considered truly "pet friendly," a property must do more than merely allow pets in their owners' rooms. Calling a property "pet friendly" implies that it will provide items like bowls and beds, perhaps a small snack, have designated "pet relief" areas, provide clean-up kits, have maps of areas around the hotel that are appropriate for walking the pets, and perhaps offer a list of nearby dog parks and other pet-friendly establishments.

Relaxing at the Rosewood Georgia
In my experience to date, the hotel I have found that best embodies the term "pet friendly" is the Hotel Rosewood Georgia in Vancouver, B.C. Staff at the Rosewood Georgia welcomed us and our German shepherd warmly, escorted us to our room and provided a walk-through. Shortly after we arrived in the room, housekeeping brought an appropriately sized bed, water and food bowls for our dog as well as some snacks.

When our dog took the liberty of climbing onto the room's love seat (as she is allowed to do at home) --  eliciting a horrified cry of, "GET DOWN!" from my wife -- the bellman was quick to reassure us that she was "allowed on every surface in the room." In all, they made us feel like our pooch was as much a valued guest as we were.

The Westin Bayshore in Vancouver, B.C., also made our pooch feel welcome, though there were areas that could have been improved upon. The Westin provided a bed and bowls, but they were sized for small breeds like Yorkies or Chihuahuas. The bed was far too small to be useful to our 85-pound girl, and the food and water bowls would have been emptied in no time at all. Fortunately, we had brought our own, so it was not an issue.

Also on the positive side, the Westin provided a map to the areas around the hotel, a clean-up kit, and treats. Hotel personnel also told us about a dog park in Ambleside Park on English Bay very close to the Lions Gate Bridge.

Hotels that allow pets often, but not always, levy an additional charge for the privilege of bringing your animal. The Westin did not add an additional charge, while the Rosewood charged an additional $50 per stay regardless of the length. Another hotel at which I recently stayed charged an additional $15 per night. That fee is primarily to cover the additional time it takes housekeeping to do a deeper cleaning of the room after the guest and their pet have checked out.

One spoiled pooch...
I have also stayed at hotels that bill themselves as "pet friendly," but where I found that description to be a bit of a stretch. In those cases, "pet tolerant" would have been more accurate.

While hotel personnel at such properties were generally gracious, welcomed our dog when we checked in and occasionally fussed on her when we made our way through the lobby, that was often the end of it, aside from the pet charge, if any. No bowls, no bed, no snacks or treats, no suggestions about where to take the dog for exercise or relief.

Just as a responsible hotelier would not present a junior suite as a "suite," they should not oversell their willingness to accommodate pets.

If a property is truly "pet friendly," that's great. If "pets are welcome" but there are no special accommodations, that's fine as well. My "ask" is that the hotel industry settle on, and consistently use, terms that accurately describe what the hotel has to offer so their human guests can better plan their travels with their furry friends.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

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