How to run a pet-friendly hotel
 
How to run a pet-friendly hotel
14 AUGUST 2017 8:00 AM

If hotels offer services and amenities for pets, they also need policies and procedures to address safety, cleanliness, noise and other potential issues that can accompany having Fido as a guest. 

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—It makes guests feel warm and fuzzy knowing that their four-legged family members can stay with them when they travel.

In fact, 51% of U.S. hotels allow pets, according to a 2016 survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Properties are even offering many benefits for their guests traveling with pets, such as special menus, food and water bowls upon arrival, and chew toys.

Some properties, like those belonging to the Hotel Indigo brand, have their own permanent pet residents for guests to interact with. The brand is pet-friendly and provides amenities such as water bowls and dog beds.

But along with the added value for guests can be safety concerns for hoteliers if a pet bolts from a room, noise issues if there is excessive barking, and the mess and destruction of FF&E that could accompany a stay by man's best friend.

"Most of the time, people who travel with their pets have pretty well-trained animals and are very careful, but you have to have policies in place to deal with problems that can come up," said Tom Waithe, senior director of operations for Kimpton Hotels in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain regions and GM of the 189-room Kimpton Hotel Monaco Seattle.

All of Kimpton's 66 hotels in the United States, Caribbean and Amsterdam allow pets and have pet welcome programs, Waithe said. For instance, the Monaco Seattle property provides a dog bed and two bowls for guests, a six-item doggie room service menu, and even has two toy chests in the hotel--one for children and one for dogs.

Here are some ways hotel managers deal with potential pet problems and what they recommend to others in the industry.

Provide guests with pet information
Since guests may not know where everything is in a city, the Monaco Seattle hotel provides an information sheet that shows where people can walk their dogs, as well as a list of pet stores, babysitting services and area vets, Waithe said.

The Hotel Indigo Denver Downtown has a designated grassy area across the street for guests to walk their dogs, said GM Amy Healy. At any given time, there are two or three guest dogs staying at the 180-room property.

Healy's own golden retriever, 11-year-old Barkly, comes to work with her as an hotel "ambassador," who hangs out in the lobby and greets guests. The property offers a package for dog owners that includes use of a bowl, poop bags, a credit to a pet salon and treats.

Explain possible charges
There will be fees imposed if there is damage to a room, and guests need to understand this when they check-in, sources said. The specific amount usually depends on any damage caused to a room.

Healy said one time a guest had an ill dog who was defecating and throwing up in the hotel room, resulting in linens and carpeting that had to be replaced. The guest was charged $500 for this damage to the room.

Guests sign a pet agreement when they check-in, and they must abide by its terms, said Shane Stocker, GM at the 118-unit Home2Suites by Hilton in Fayetteville, N.C. The brand overall is pet-friendly and limits pets to two per suite with a maximum weight limit that varies by hotel.

If there are damages to a room, the hotel will take pictures and create a report documenting whatever items were destroyed or ruined, he said.

Have a contact phone number for human guests
Hoteliers said they will always get a cell phone number to reach a guest when they are out of the hotel in case there is a problem with their pet or if they’re disturbing other guests.

"If we have dogs barking excessively, we will call the guest and ask that this be remedied immediately," Stocker said.

The 100-unit Home2Suites in D'Iberville, Miss. asks guests to give them two ways to contact them if there should be a concern with their pets, said GM Victoria Littles.

Extra room cleaning
Hotels will deep-clean rooms where guests have been with pets, shampooing the carpet and providing a special cleaner for the furniture, Waithe said. The same is true at Stocker's hotel, where rooms will be steam-cleaned and carpets shampooed.

Consider imposing an upfront surcharge
A total of 35% of hotels that allow pets charge a fee to help cover the costs of extra cleanings, according to the 2016 AHLA survey.

Hotel Indigo properties charge a fee. At Healy's hotel, the pet fee per stay is $100, she said. Home2Suites by Hilton also imposes a fee that varies by property. At both Stocker's and Littles' hotels, the fee is $75 per pet.

Set parameters for housekeeping staff and guests
Waithe said guests who travel with their pets must hang a sign when they leave the room, since housekeeping won't enter the room when the dog is in the room.

"If you want maid service, you can't leave the dog in the room when it is being serviced," he said.

Healy said the hotel will let a guest know when the room will be cleaned, so that a traveler can take out the pet. If that time doesn't work, an alternate time will be offered that is more convenient for the guest.

"We won't allow more than one day without cleaning the room," Healy said.

There also can be issues with employees who are scared or allergic to dogs. Two housekeepers at Littles' hotel are afraid of dogs, and she has resolved this by making sure those staffers are not assigned to clean rooms where animals are staying.

At the Home2Suites in Fayetteville, the pets needs to be in a crate or vacated when a suite is being serviced.

"Too much can happen when you have a loose pet in a room and a vacuum cleaner going," Stocker said.

3 Comments

  • Susan Koczka August 21, 2017 8:59 PM Reply

    Personally I Love pet friendly hotels. I wish everyone would follow the rules and more hotel will allow !
    Common sense prevails!

  • Sherri-Lee Birely August 30, 2017 11:26 AM Reply

    There is atleast one more hotel that allows dogs at no additional charge: LaQuinta

  • Dawne Smith September 6, 2017 8:58 AM Reply

    All Baymont Inns are Pet Friendly! Fees and rules vary from property to property.

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