Posted on: January 7, 2013
Traveling With Pets
As traveling with pets becomes more common, travel agents should learn how to include their clients' furry loved ones
Traveling with pets // © 2013 Jagodka
Some 2 million animals fly the friendly skies every year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. But while headlines extoll the latest pet offerings — from specialized room service menus to doggie therapy sessions and massages — in reality, organizing pet travel can be a complicated, frustrating and, often, emotional process for owners.
Organizing pet travel is much more than matching clients with the right pet-friendly hotel. Travel agents need to understand airline travel policies, navigate international entry procedures and have an understanding of on-site, pet-friendly establishments so Fido can enjoy the trip as much as his owner.
Finding the Right Airline
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows airlines to create their own pet policies, so rules and fees vary significantly across all carriers. Clients traveling regularly with their pet might consider JetBlue, which offers a frequent flier rewards program for pets. Pets enrolled in JetPaws can earn 300 TrueBlue points for each flight segment flown.
Airlines often do not have enough under-seat space in their first- and business-class cabins to accommodate pet carriers, so luxury clients may need to travel in economy in order to accompany their pets. As an alternative, agents might consider booking private air charters.
“We are seeing an increase of guests who were on the fence about making the switch from commercial flights to private charter,” said Wayne J. Rizzi, president and CEO of Air Royale International, Inc., which specializes in private air charters. “More and more, we are hearing that the ability to have their pets treated like valued guests helped convince guests to book a charter flight. This is especially true of travelers with larger pets who don’t fit in travel-size carriers.”
Air Royale — which has access to more than 5,000 jets — has recently teamed up with Sit ‘n Stay Global, a leading provider of in-flight services for pets on private jets.
Sit ‘n Stay, which developed the first standardized safety protocols for pets on private jets, provides corporate flight attendants, certified by the American Red Cross’ Pet First Aid program, who are dedicated to the pet’s comfort.
“Our safety protocols cover everything from turbulence to decompression and bracing positions, as well as evacuation procedures on land or in water,” said Carol Martin, whose title is “top dog” at Sit ‘n Stay Global.
As with navigating air travel, understanding international entry regulations can be a complicated business. In general, travel within the U.S. does not require vaccinations or veterinary documentation, with the exception of pets en route to Hawaii.
Hawaii, the only state never to have had a case of rabies, requires that animals spend 120 days in quarantine at the Animal Quarantine Station (AQS) before entering the state. Alternatively, the state’s direct release program allows pets to be released directly to their owners, upon inspection. Qualifying for direct release, however, is a lengthy, and not inexpensive, process, which must commence at least four months before the date of travel. The Maui Humane Society, one of Hawaii’s approved veterinary inspection services, has developed a checklist of the steps required to qualify for direct release and can serve as a resource for agents with clients traveling to Hawaii with their pets.
When it comes to international travel, entry procedures vary significantly with each country. For more information, JetBlue’s website is an excellent resource, although it is limited to the destinations to which the airline flies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also provides links to each country’s pet-entry policies.
Hotels With Bark
Finding a hotel that caters to pets has become easier than ever, and several brands even offer corporate-wide policies. Best Western Hotels, for example, offers more than 1,600 pet-friendly locations, with each hotel allowing up to two domestic dogs (up to 80 pounds each) per room.
Loews Hotels, which launched its Loews Loves Pets program in 2000, welcomes all domesticated animals, not just dogs, at every property, and the brand does not discriminate by breed or size. Upon check-in, pets receive a pet tag, bowl and treats, and a brochure on local services, including dog-walking routes. During their stay, pets can order straight from the Loews Loves Pets room service menu, which includes tasty options such as Bow Wow Tenderloin of Beef and Kitty’s Salmon Supreme. Loews Hotels charge a one-time cleaning fee of $25 per stay. Loews also recently introduced learning vacations for pets. The pilot program, “Su’ruff Camp” is available at California’s Loews Coronado Bay Resort, where dogs don board shorts for surfing lessons with Coronado Surfing Academy at Coronado’s Dog Beach.
Loews Coronado Bay is a standout for Jennifer Duffy, director of public relations for Loews Hotels, California.
“Not only is the resort near Coronado’s Dog Beach, but it also has a long strand for dog walking,” said Duffy. “The resort is also home to the famous Loews Surf Dog Competition, which enlists more than 60 dogs and their owners in a summer surfing competition to raise money for charity. The 2012 event raised more than $11,000 for the ASPCA.”
Kimpton Hotels also has a corporate-wide policy, which states, “We welcome any pet, regardless of size, weight or breed for zero fees or deposits at every Kimpton hotel.”
Pets checking-in can sleep on a cozy pet bed, receive a personal greeting from management and be greeted by the four-legged director of pet relations at select locations. What about pet lovers who have to leave Fido at home? Kimpton will provide some guppy love by delivering a “loaner” goldfish to your client’s room to keep them company during their stay.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts also offers a number of pet-friendly properties. Participating hotels provide notification about a pet’s stay to housekeeping, so room attendants won’t startle pets when opening the door. Furthermore, the cleaning staff checks the pet’s water level and makes sure they have extra blankets for their stay. The VID (Very Important Dog) treatment at the Fairmont Washington D.C., Georgetown, welcomes dogs with healthy treats handmade by the executive pastry chef. The property also provides walking maps, loaner collars and leashes and even a green paw/red paw “Do Not Disturb” sign. Although Fairmont Washington D.C., Georgetown has a no-charge pet policy, most of Fairmont’s pet cleaning fees range from $25 to $40 per day.
The Pets Are Welcome (P.A.W.) program is available at select Starwood Hotels and Resorts. The W San Francisco, for example, offers dog-walking services, pet grooming and a specialty pet store. The property includes a $100 cleaning fee on the guest folio. Pets staying at Westin Hotel’s pet-friendly properties can enjoy a good night’s sleep on a doggie-sized version of the Westin Heavenly Bed. Although not all brands have a pet policy, individual properties are also pulling out all the stops when it comes to welcoming four-legged travelers.
Pets staying at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, in Los Angeles, can earn Hyatt Gold Passport points and status levels, including Gold (one stay), Platinum (five stays) and Diamond (15 stays). With the first check in, the pet will receive a Hyatt Gold Pawsport with its name, birthday, Hyatt Gold Passport number and Pawsport stamp boxes to track visits.
Pet owners receive 500 Hyatt Gold Passport points for each stay, while their furry friends enjoy canine amenities such as a plush doggie bed, a welcome treat, in-room haute-dog menu and an annual birthday card. The property’s backyard is a doggie dream, and includes grassy gardens and a designated “barking lot” complete with disposal bags and trash bin.
The hotel’s executive chef has created a special menu, with each item prepared to order and served at a temperature safe for the doggie palette. Menu items, made with all-natural ingredients, include Bark-fest Grrrrrrr-nola, a Cold Nose Bark Bar and Snicker-Poodles.
Picking a hotel is not the end of the story when booking pet travel. Clients will also need to know pet-friendly establishments within the destination. Savvy agents will be ready with a list of pet-friendly restaurants, parks and attractions. JetBlue’s JetPaws Travel Guide is a useful resource, which lists pet-friendly establishments in its top markets.
Since most hotels do not permit animals to be left alone in the guestroom, agents should also be ready to offer recommendations for times when clients need to do something without their pets. While some hotels offer dog-sitting services, travelers might also consider utilizing the service of a doggie daycare facility. L.A. Dogworks, in Los Angeles, for example, works with a number of area hotels, so clients can board their pets while working or sightseeing.
“People run back and forth to our facility, so they can spend lunch with their pets,” said Andrew Rosenthal, owner of L.A. Dogworks.
Sit ‘n Stay flight attendants can also stay on at your clients’ destination to serve as a pet nanny.
As travelers clamor for better travel products for their pets, and the travel industry responds in kind, the offerings will increase. Accordingly, the rules will continue to grow more complex. Travel agents who stay on top of this ever-changing market, however, can provide a valuable service to their clients, and possibly find themselves a lucrative new niche.
When traveling with furry family members isn’t feasible, clients can still opt to stay in a property with a doggie ambassador.
Both Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants have four-legged ambassadors at select properties.
Catie Copley, Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston
Catie Copley, is a black Labrador, originally trained as a guide dog with the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in New York, before becoming the famed canine ambassador for The Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston. Catie has been the star of two children’s books.
Georgie, Hotel Vintage
For Georgie, whose title is diva of pet relations at the Hotel Vintage in Portland, Ore., work isn’t all fun and games. She has to keep up with her paw-dicures and sip on pooch wine with the hotel’s canine guests every evening at “whine hour” in the lobby. On the weekends, she loves to cut loose, riding in the sidecar of her Harley Davidson, sporting the latest in doggie couture.
Smudge, Fairmont St Andrews
Smudge trained with the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind before starting work at the Fairmont Algonquin. Recently, the golden Labrador retriever relocated across the pond to become the in-house ambassador at the Fairmont St. Andrews in Scotland.
Nikkos, Hotel Palomar Los Angeles
Three-year-old terrier mix Nikkos, the director of pet relations at the Hotel Palomar Los Angeles, is happy to share insider tips with traveling pets, such as who gives the best belly rubs, where the best treats are stashed and which L.A. restaurants allow pets to bring their owners along.
Fairmont Hotels & ResortsKimpton Hotels & Restaurants
Directors of Pet Relationswww.kimptonhotels.com
Pet-Friendly Hotel Packages
Woofie Weekends at Loews
Loews Hotels, Nationwide
* Accommodations for one night for pets with their owners
* A specially made "Wag Your Tail Delight" meal for your pet delivered to your room
* Microdry Memory Foam Ultimate Luxury Pet Mat
* Loews Loves Pets standard amenities (Bowl, Mat & Tags)
* $25 Pet Cleaning Fees waived
* Offer ends Dec 31, 2013
Gold Pawsport Program
Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles, Calif
* Personalized Hyatt Gold Pawsport for the pet
* Status points with each qualifying stay
* In-room, plush- round 28” doggie bed
* Home-made, all-natural welcome treat
* Specially designed in room haute-dog menu
* Annual birthday card
P.A.W.-Pets Are Welcome
W San Francisco, San Francisco, Calif.
* Grooming services
* Specialty pet stores
* A one-time $100 cleaning fee will be applied to the guest folio
Powell Hotel, San Francisco, Calif.
* Deluxe accommodations for owners and pets at no extra charge
* Welcome treats upon arrival
* Package prices vary according to season.
* Guests with pets must provide credit card deposit of $150 against damages to be returned on departure.
PetStay Las Vegas
Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nev.
* Caesars Palace features a designated PetStay area within the hotel
* Welcome packets that direct guests to outdoor relief areas and dog walking routes
* Specialty room service menus
* $50 per night upgrade fee
Lap of Luxury Pet Package
Hotel Vintage Plaza, Portland, Ore.
* Greeting from Georgie, Diva of Pet Relations
* Doggie gift box (including local retail services voucher)
* Overnight valet parking
* Bottle of wine
Heathman Hotel’s Pampered Pet Package
Heathman Hotel, Portland, Ore.
* Deluxe overnight accommodations in the room of your choice
* Continental breakfast for two
* $15 beverage credit in The Heathman Marble Bar
* Choice of "Art of Sleep Luxury Bed Menu" for you
(Choice of Tempur-Pedic, European pillow top or European featherbed_
* Choice of the "Bark of Sleep Pet Bed Menu" for your pet
(Choose of Memory Foam, Faux Suede, or Bolster bed for your pooch)
* Four-legged friend goodie bag at check in
* Banfield pet hospital water collapsible water bowl and collar attachable bag dispenser
* Complimentary area walking guide for two and four legged guests
Riverside Suites, Seaside, Ore.
* Spacious studio, one or two-bedroom unit
* Welcome bag (including pet treats and clean-up tools)
* Complimentary people breakfast
* Complimentary manager's reception
* Pets are limited to dogs only and in size and to select units.
* Cleaning rates are $25 per pet per night and owners are asked to sign a pet policy at check-in.
Dallas Pampered Pet Package
The Wyndham Dallas Suites - Park Central, Dallas, Texas
* Pet-friendly suite
* Pampered pet amenity kit (bowls and treats)
* Pet bed
* Plenty of access to beautiful green space and parks
* Price starts from $139 per night
Hotel Palomar, Dallas, TX
* Greeting from new Beagle mix "Director of Pet Relations," Higgins
* 25 percent off pet-friendly overnight luxury accommodations
* Food and water bowls and a comfy dog bed placed in your room
* "Hotel Guest" pet ID tags with contact information for safety while out on the town
* "Doggie" bag with bottled water, designer treats, and Higgins' helpful tips for pet-friendly restaurants, dog parks, specialty stores and more
* Grassy area for walking your pet with bag dispenser and disposal
* Rates starting at $210 a night
New York City Royal Pooch Package
InterContinental New York Barclay, New York, NY
* Welcome amenity of organic dog biscuits
* Bow Wow Bag™
* Rubby Buddy™ pet massager
* Use Of Elegant Wetnoz Metro Line dual feeders
* Use of the Bolt™ interactive laser toy
* $25 per night pet fee waived
* Package starting at $295
* One pet allowed per room, not to exceed 70 lbs in weight.