Travel: Pet-friendly hotels

This article published in the Denver Post on Nov. 20, 2015

Pet-friendly hotels in Colorado cater to canines, even in ski season
Pups get all the perks of upscale lodging
By Kate Jonuska
Special to The Denver Post

Returning guests are often happy when they walk into the Antlers at Vail Hotel, but those who travel with pets have a unique way of showing it.

“They say all the time, ‘The dog is so happy to be back.’ I guess they are, too, but the dog is always ‘so happy,’ ” says general manager Rob LeVine.

While the Antlers has long been pet-friendly — it hosted the late celebrity pet Floyd, the skateboarding bulldog — welcoming pets has become big business for hotels and resorts all over Colorado, and these hotels are rolling out the red carpet for the four-legged, furry crowd.

The Antlers offers guests the ability to order a chef-created roast-turkey dinner to their room’s door for Thanksgiving; chef-baked dog biscuits are available at no extra charge. At the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, dog guests’ rooms are outfitted with a dog bed, food and water bowls, and homemade, all-natural pet treats made by Midge Knerr, the hotel’s innkeeper and pastry chef.

“It wasn’t until the last few years that more upscale hotels actually saw the value of promoting their properties as pet-friendly,” says David Ciani, general manager of The Stanley, where dogs have been allowed in the Lodge portion of the property since 2012. “A lot of guests are thrilled to learn they can bring their dog, which is an important decision-making factor in where they stay or if they go at all.”

For many guests, pets are part of the family, says Tom Puntel, director of sales and marketing for the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa.

In addition to pet beds and bowls, the Park Hyatt offers dog guests branded leashes and chew toys, and occasionally offers to dog-sit at the front desk for short periods. One of the “local secrets” cards offered to guests is dog-themed, listing a great dog-friendly hike, the closest dog park and self dog-wash, and a local brewery that makes dog treats.

“I don’t think it’s expected, but its definitely a luxury touch,” says Puntel, who often brings his dog to work. “Our job is to be true masters of detail and be out ahead of people in providing unique experiences, so if we’re able to create that sense of family and luxury, it helps our business and provides incredible engagement with the guests we work with every day.”

Guests with pets tend to have fierce loyalty to pet-friendly lodgings, says LeVine, of the Antlers at Vail. “We have, in general, about 40 percent repeat business. Our pet-owner guests are much higher than that, though, in the 60 percent range.”

Even at pet-friendly accommodations, hotel policies are all over the map in terms of allowed weight and number of pets, pet amenities, and extra fees, even among hotels in the same price range. The fees depend in part on how many rooms welcome pets.

The Antlers at Vail, for example, is a condominium hotel, and about 25-30 percent of the condo owners choose to allow animals. Condominium hotels in general are often more open to pets. At other properties, there are no designated rooms for pets, and so deep cleaning can be a higher priority.

“Our pet fee is $150 per stay, and that’s non-refundable,” says Leo Lozana, front office manager of the Viceroy Snowmass, which hosted more than 100 dogs just this summer. “It’s basically for deep cleaning of the unit for guests who may have allergies, since we don’t have a floor or unit specific for guests with pets.”

The Viceroy’s fee also covers a bed, bowls, treats, a bandana and white-glove treatment, such as dog-walking services through the concierge. However, the Viceroy is among those hotels that welcomes animals other than dogs. Lozana says guests have brought cats and birds. No one has brought a snake yet, he said.

“I’m not quite sure how to handle a snake, to be honest,” he says. “We’ll take it on a case-by-case basis if I get asked.”

Contrary to expectation, “the downside (to welcoming animals) is pretty minimal,” says LeVine, “and in this age when competition is fierce and you have to find ways to appeal to as broad a market as you can, welcoming pets is one way to do that. Plus, it fits with our culture of hospitality.”

In addition, pet-friendly hotels get the best feedback from guests, such as one dog owner who wrote LeVine, saying, “Thanks for letting Max walk in the front door, like a real man.”

For contact information for these and other pet-friendly hotels, visit the Denver Post at www.denverpost.com/travel/ci_29140476/petfriendly-hotels-in-colorado-cater-to-canines-even-in-ski-season.

 

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