An exclusive hotel - or tour or restaurant - at your next destination, that's who.
You've heard about doggie day care and pet-walking services, and even the fact that some hotels set aside choice tidbits for their guests' four-legged friends. But roll out the red carpet - and treats, toys, and special menus - in the hotel restaurant? Not until now.
A growing number of hotels, inns, and resorts are capitalizing on Americans' love for their pets. And it doesn't make sense not to. According to a poll by the Travel Industry Association of America, 14 percent of adults in the United States refused to leave their best friends at home while on trips in the past three years. Almost four in five of them traveled with their dogs (cats were a distant second, but 3 percent took rabbits, ferrets, or fish), while 29 percent stayed in hotels or motels with their pets, the poll noted.
To accommodate, hoteliers now pamper four-legged guests with over-the-top services that are truly the cat's meow. Tour operators offer dog-friendly versions of their itineraries. And at some camps, a dog is de rigueur - don't leave home without it.
In the Vermont countryside, for instance, Camp Gone to the Dogs (802-387-5673) offers a full plate of classes and events - obedience classes, tail-wagging contests, even arts and crafts and costume parties. It's a Club Med for canines. Lectures range from behavior problems and nutrition to careers as therapy and service dogs. (Portrait photography and canine makeovers cost extra.)
Then there's the chance to explore Europe on foot and walk the dog at the same time. Europeds, a tour operator out of Novato, California (800-321-9552), allows pooches on walking tours in Provence and the Dordogne Valley of France, where guests stay in four-star hotels. "They're amazingly popular. The dogs come to restaurants with us, and some have dog menus - it's a hoot," says Europeds owner David Martin.
If your pet prefers an Atlantic crossing, Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 is happy to oblige. The QE2 allows canines on board in a shielded open deck area for an extra $500, while cats and birds are $300 and $200, respectively. And just so an ocean-borne dog feels at home, he'll find a fire hydrant and lamppost on deck.
Because nearly 60 percent of U.S. households own at least one pet according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, many hoteliers agree that happy pets mean happy guests. "At Loews, we've found that taking care of pets is the best way to build customer loyalty and give our guests and their companions a good night's sleep," says Charlotte St. Martin, executive vice president of marketing at Loews Hotels, which permits pets at all of its hotels in the U.S. and Canada.