You’ve heard of staycations, babymoons and set-jetting; the latest buzzword we’ve heard bandied around the UK holiday sector is petcations. More and more pet owners are looking to take their four (and two) legged friends on holiday with them – is this a niche you cater for?
A recent presentation we saw at the Hoseasons Owners’ Conference focused on the changing habits and demands of self-caterers and holidaymakers in the UK. They described animals as being the new children, due to the average age of becoming a parent for the first time increasing to 30 years old resulting in a shift in work/life values. One in four guests searching on the Hoseasons website are looking for pet-friendly accommodation.
At a recent visit to SuperControl HQ, Alistair Handyside (chairman of Premier Cottages) said,
“‘Dog-friendly’ is one of the top three search terms used on premiercottages.co.uk and it is used all year round, unlike ‘swimming pool’ which is only popular when searching for holidays during the warmer months.”
That’s two popular UK holiday websites confirming that whether you accept pets or not is an important element of the decision-making process when booking holiday accommodation. Alistair also added some further advice,
“Be specific about what pets you accept. If you are happy for people to bring their dogs but don’t want them to bring their pet snake or cat then state that you are Dog-friendly, not Pet-friendly.”
The importance of this niche is further reinforced by a quick search of SuperControl customers which shows that almost two-thirds (60%) of UK properties have already added pets or dogs as an option.
The benefits of accepting pets …
- Maximise appeal: It is estimated that 29% of UK households¹ (8.4 million) have pets that they could take on holiday with them: dogs, cats, rabbits, caged birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses and ponies. BlueCross² says that 41% of owners will be taking their pets on UK breaks this year because they can’t bear to be separated from them. That’s more than 3.4 million families (potential bookings) in the UK that want to take their pets on holiday with them.
- Boost profitability: A study by the PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association)³ found that British pet owners typically pay an extra £126 to take their pet on holiday with them. Adding a booking option cost per dog/pet usually works out less than paying boarding kennel fees. Our customers charge anything from £10 up to £85 per dog per stay, and then there are the extras as well. If we’re talking pooches, you could provide a dog bed, a dog duvet, a dog crate, dog-sitting service, dog-walking etc, all things that make life easier for your guests and can help bring in extra £££s for you.
… and the downside
- You can’t please all the people all of the time. Guests who are not pet people might be put off booking a property that advertises it accepts pets. If 29% of UK households own pets they could take on holiday with them, that leaves 71% that don’t.
- Be prepared to add to your workload. You need to allow extra time and resources for housekeeping during changeover to ensure a thorough clean happens every time.
How to make it work
If you weigh up the pros and cons and decide to give it a go, learn from accommodation owners and property managers that already welcome dogs at their property.
1. Establish the ground rules
Make a list of house rules of what is acceptable etiquette, and include a link to this in all correspondence when a guest has enquired about bringing a pet. Eg: ensure pet flea treatment is up to date before arrival; dogs are allowed downstairs only; please keep pets off the furniture; please wash and dry muddy paws using the tap outside the back door and the towel hanging inside the door; please clean up after your dog using poo-bags provided (with instructions about which bin to use); please keep dogs on leads around livestock; do not leave pets alone in the property. Also, include a printed version of this list in the welcome folder at your property, along with contact details for your closest vets. Top tip: You probably provide an edible welcome treat for your two legged guests. Providing dog treats is a much appreciated personal touch to add.
2. Make cleaning a priority
Although some of your guests might want to bring their pet with them, some of your guests will not – and as mentioned earlier accepting pets could potentially put some people off booking your property altogether. To reduce this risk it is important to allow time and resources to do a thorough clean during every changeover. Consider the flooring – having wooden, laminated or tiled floors throughout the ground floor makes it easier (and quicker) to clean and disinfect. Some people that have carpets shampoo them after each doggy visit. Whilst this ensures the ultimate level of cleanliness it also significantly adds to time, costs and resources for each changeover. You can add a surcharge to cover this, but if you plan to welcome dogs it would be worth reflooring right through next time you’re refurbishing.
3. Let people know you accept pets
- Have a section on your own website especially for dog owners. Use this to establish the ground rules – how many pets you accept; how you cater for them (eg if dog beds and feeding bowls are provided); suggested dog walks or dog-friendly beaches nearby; local pubs, cafes and bistros that you can take your dog along to. For ideas, take a look at Orroland’s dog-friendly page.
- Consider advertising on dog-friendly marketing websites; discussions on the LayMyHat forum recommend We Accept Pets and DogFriendly for UK properties.
- Make use of reviews – both those that mention how delighted guests were to be able to bring Fido along, and those that say they would never have known you accepted pets as your property is so clean and spotless. This will help reassure guests without pets that you maintain impeccably high standards at all times.
It’s easy to add a charge for accepting pets in your SuperControl account, along with any other extras you want to offer (eg pet-sitting service or bedding). Login to your SuperControl account and go to Properties > Booking options and complete the fields in Add new option:
Then add it as an option to dog-friendly properties, go to Properties > Edit > Options/extras. This is where you set the price and the maximum per property etc.
It will then become an option that can be selected by the guest during the booking process.