I enjoy (stealing, and then) passing on ideas to other innkeepers that might be useful to grow their own businesses. Not a new idea…allowing pets at your inn…but I never had a real appreciation for how strong this segment of the market can be.
A short visit to Pheasant Field B & B in Carlisle, PA., enlightened me. Dee Fagan and her husband Chuck own a great 8 guest room inn that also boards pets of all kinds…including horses. But the dog market is the one that kept my attention when Dee, answering about a 1000 questions I had for her, indicated that she estimates between 10-15 room-nights PER MONTH are guests looking for inns that accept dogs. HOT DOG! I never realized it was so significant!
Among all the inns in the association around the Carlisle area, only two accept pets. So when ANY of those inns have a request for a room with dog privileges, referrals start pouring in to Pheasant Field. 10-15 room-nights PER MONTH! It bears repeating…I can’t get over the magnitude of the business! That would raise an 8 room inn with 40% average occupancy up to over 46% occupancy. At $153 ADR (the 2006 PAII Survey statistic), that’s almost $28,000 per year, not counting any fee for the doggies’ visits. At almost 20% NOI/Sales (another PAII stat), that kind of Cash Flow improvement can add up to $56 thousand buckaroos to the value of your inn when you go to sell someday. HOT DOG! The numbers just keep on growing!
I feel so foolish that when we had The Lafayette Inn in Easton, PA., we were reluctant to take pets. When I asked Dee about any damage or problems over the years, she said once a dog scratched a door when the owner failed to put the dog in the crate upon departure as required. And once a barking dog, (whose owner claims Fido never barks), embarrassed its owners when they came home and Dee invited them to listen at the door. Again, had the dog been in its crate, there would have been no problems.
It takes some special preparations and processes to make it work. Here are a few ideas the Pheasant Field takes to ensure a problem-free pet visit:
- Requiring a pet to be in its crate while the owners are away precludes problems.
- Having a properly equipped and identified place to visit when nature calls is important…and requires occasional policing by the innkeeper to ensure all land-mines are picked up.
- Fees for pet visits are acceptable to guests. Dee charges only $10. That certainly will not discourage the thrifty guest from booking.
- Private entrances to guest rooms is a real plus. Not having to drag a dog through the inn to get outside is a convenience to ALL guests…even the ones there without dogs.
- Requiring proper vaccinations is OK, if desired, and some inns limit the size of the dog…but too many restrictions may discourage bookings.
- Providing a scooper, baggies, a spare leash, trash can, availability to water, and doggie treats make pup and owner feel welcome.
And once the process is set up…Market it, Market it, Market it. On your website, in your keywords and Adwords, in your newsletters, in your rack card, in your personal notes and emails to your database…let the world know.
Perhaps it is time for other inns to rethink their no-pet policy. I certainly wish I had when we had our inn…HOT DOG!…10-15 room-nights PER MONTH! I can’t get over it. Scott
Please reply and let us all know of other ideas you have to make a doggie visit a real boost to YOUR economy…And how are you marketing it?