28 May 2021 • Hospitality
How the boom in pet ownership is shaping hospitality
With a surge in new dog mums and cat dads, hotels are growing more accepting of a new class of guest.
Few people will claim to have had a good pandemic, but dog and cat breeders, as well as animal shelters, will tell you that, in terms of outgoings, trade was magnificent. Research by The Pet Food Manufacturers' Association found that 19 per cent of UK adults aged 24-35 acquired a pet last year, while another 16 per cent still plan on doing so. According to PetPoint, which collects data on animals in shelters in the US, the rate at which pets were being adopted increased 12 percent year-over-year in 2020 after years of flat or negative growth.
Now, as parts of the world open up again, new friction points are emerging as owners face the challenge of abandoning their pet at home for long periods. It should be acknowledged that the circumstances under which these pets have been adopted mean that bonds between them and their owners are likely to be unusually strong. According to research by Rover.com, 93 per cent of people claim their 'pandemic pet' improved their mental and/or physical wellbeing in the last year. Nearly half (40 per cent) report anxiety induced by the thought of having to leave their pet when they return to work.
Photo: Courtesy of Hilton
The result is that many simply won’t, instead searching out leisure venues that are by default pet friendly. We’ve already written about the rise in extended stays, and how that’s created a driver for hotels to add schooling to their work-from-anywhere infrastructure; pets are increasingly become part of the same equation. Indeed, AirBnB’s most recent report highlights that not only has it seen a significant rise in bookings over 28 nights long, but that those who had pets invariably took their cat or dog with them.
Of course, to really stand out to a new generation of besotted pet owners, brands will want their offer not to be merely pet friendly, but rather pet premium. The new Nobu Hotel London Portman Square has worked with its linen supplier to create a range of robes for dogs to share in the spa experience. Hard Rock Hotels’ Unleashed programme allows guests to bring two pets per room, each of whom will be provided with a gift bag of treats and toys on their arrival. ‘The Unleashed programme not only extends the option of travelling with pets but offers guests peace of mind knowing their pets will receive perks and pampering in an exceptional environment throughout their stay,’ explains Dale Hipsh, the brand’s senior vice president.
Photo: Courtesy of Hilton
Meanwhile Hilton has redoubled efforts at its existing pet-friendly hotels in the UK after the results of a recent survey revealed that a quarter (26 per cent) of guests now won’t travel without their dogs. The result is the brand’s new Bone Appétit menu, which features Beef Doguignon (slow-cooked beef brisket served with mashed potato, carrots, green beans, sweetcorn, broad beans and gluten-free gravy) and Earl Greyhound (a calming blend of lavender, rose petals, lime flower and orange flowers designed to destress pets after long car journeys). The Innside in New York has started offering a similar $55 dog-focused menu for those guests who want to bring their pets into the hotel restaurant. Up in the rooms there’s a selection of beds and throws for the animal’s post-dinner nap.
There’s even a sector of the hospitality market that isn’t just open to pets but treats them as its primary customer. April saw the launch of dog members’ club Urban Mutts. The London venue boasts staff trained in acupuncture, massage and reiki, while fitness classes and grooming round out the offer. An overnight stay costs $97.
If you’re not a pet owner, this might all sound faintly ridiculous. If you’re a hospitality business, however, thinking about how to engage pet owners is a serious business opportunity. The pet care industry was worth over $103 billion in the US alone last year according to Euromonitor. 2020 saw an unprecedented 8.7 per cent uptick in sales globally, with a further 7 per cent growth expected by 2026. What’s more, pet ownership grew in line with household income. Most brands won’t go as far robe selections and tea menus, but an appreciation of what materials and fittings are pet resistant and animal safe will likely be a minimum.
Cover image: Urban Mutts in London. Photo: Courtesy of Pencil Studio