Pet ownership is at an all-time high in the United States. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 68% percent of U.S. households reported having a pet in the 2017-2018 survey, compared to 56% of households in 1988. Factoring in population growth, this means that there are more furry (and scaly!) friends than ever living side by side with us humans.
As pet ownership grows, so does our attachment to them. PetSecure reports that “27% of American pet owners admit to having had professional photographs taken of their pets”, while “36% of Americans give their dog birthday presents.” Is it really that much of a stretch, then, to assume that devoted pet owners want to take their pets on vacation on them as well?
Perhaps it’s just me speaking as an animal lover, but I adore the idea of pet-friendly hotels, cafes, etc. I hate leaving my dog behind when I travel, especially if I’m heading to somewhere exciting or luxurious. But I’m not alone. As the media outlet OZY reports, “About 37 percent of pet owners travel with their pets every year, up from 19 percent a decade ago.” So how can tour operators take advantage of this trend?
If you already offer pet-friendly tours, make sure you’re listing them in the right place! The website BringFido offers a list of dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, tours, and events throughout the world. Each of the spots is reviewed on a scale of one to five bones, with five being the best. And the activities span a wide range — from wine tours to boat rides and more. Similar sites include Pet Friendly Travel, GoPetFriendly.com, and PetsWelcome.com, and you should check out each to see how you can add your tours to their site.
However, if you are new to the idea of pet-friendly tours and you are considering whether or not to add them, check out our tips below to see where to start.
Take Some Time to Sit on It
First, you should spend some time realistically considering whether or not the activity you provide is suitable for furry friends. For example, dogs will likely have a much better time on a relaxed walking tour through the city than on a high-speed ATV ride through the mountains. Not all tours can be made pet-friendly, and that’s okay. If you can’t ensure that the furry friend will have a good time, it’s better that their owner leaves them at home with chew toys and bones aplenty.
If you do think that your tour can be pet-friendly, make the necessary logistical preparations. Purchase all necessary safety gear — a car harness for those operating car tours or a non-retractable leash, for example — or note that pet-owners must bring these items themselves. And make sure that all locations along the tour route are pet-friendly. The last thing you want is to invite pets to tag along only to find out that the lunch stop won’t let them in.
Avoid Potential Pet Peeves
It’s also important to keep in mind that even though some guests won’t mind, not everyone will be okay with the additional four-legged guests. For that reason, private tours are the easiest way to incorporate pets into your existing operation. That way, if a typical stop doesn’t allow pets, you can easily adjust the itinerary to attend one that does. This also ensures that other guests who may not enjoy the furry company won’t be bothered.
Don’t Bark Up the Wrong Tree
Both guests’ and pets’ safety is your number one priority, so if you don’t think that you can make the necessary accommodations, please steer clear of pet-friendly tours. While these tours can potentially bring in customers who can’t imagine leaving their four-legged friends at home, they can also be problematic if done incorrectly. The benefits to your company must be weighed against the increased liability for both you, your tour guides, and your other guests before making any decisions.
The Doggie Bag (a.k.a. Some Takeaways)
Pet-friendly tours can be a great way to open up your business to a new sector of customers, but they require a lot of thought from both a logistical and liability perspective. However, if you do end up making it work, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. You’re officially top dog.
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