How We Did It: Creating & Promoting the Inn at East Beach as a Dog-Friendly Hotel

By Amanda Hurley Corporate Director of Marketing, broughtonHOTELS | October 06, 2019

Nearly 40% of pet owners travel with their furry companions every year, according to the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. That's close to a 20% increase from a decade ago. Knowing this, it only makes sense for hotels to accommodate guests who choose to travel with their pets. More than half of U.S. hotels allow pets, according to the 2018 American Hotel & Lodging Association Hotel Trends Survey.

More people than ever are traveling with their pets and we wanted to capture that part of the market. As a hotel management company, we understand it takes a special approach to optimize a hotel for pet-friendliness. When a hotel decides to allow pets, there are a number of factors to consider when strategizing and planning a pet-friendly launch. Aside from simply attracting pet owners as guests and what kind of services should be offered for their four-legged pals, rules and regulations associated with welcoming them must also be implemented.

The Case Study: The Inn at East Beach of Santa Barbara, CA

Becoming Dog-Friendly | Setting Up the Property for Success

The Inn at East Beach is a unique and charming property in the Santa Barbara market. Featuring 33 guest rooms and suites, only a block away from the beach, the Inn at East Beach has a mid-century modern aesthetic and a fun beachy vibe. The hotel is perfect for travelers who want the true California coast experience.

When we decided to allow pets at the Inn at East Beach, there were a number of decisions we had to make in order to get started.

1. What kind of pet will we allow?

Deciding on the type of animals allowed at the Inn at East Beach was fairly easy. We knew most people travel with their dogs as opposed to other pets such as cats, birds, or reptiles. Dogs don't need a litter box or heat lamp, and it's fairly easy to take them on trips.

As a best practice, we set a limit of two dogs per room, but as avid animal lovers, we decided to wave the weight limit and breed restrictions you may find at other hotels. We did this because we assume those with larger dogs and commonly "aggressive" dogs most likely won't travel with their pets.

2. What will the rules be for pet owners?

We knew it was essential to have a clearly defined list of rules when allowing dogs on the property. We listed these out on our website as a "Dog Policy " and have all dog owners sign the Guest Dog Agreement upon arrival. There is a set fee per stay/per dog and a sanitation fee for stays longer than 3 nights.

Additional rules we included were:

  • All dogs must be on a leash while in public spaces
  • Dogs must always be supervised while on property, this means no leaving the dogs in the rooms unattended
  • Dogs are not permitted in the lobby during breakfast hours or in the gated pool area, but guests are allowed to dine outside with their dog
  • Dogs are to relieve themselves in designated relief areas
  • Pet parents are responsible for any damage caused by their dog
  • Alternative arrangements must be made for the dog if there are complaints of noise or disruptiveness

And of course, the hotel should not be held liable for any damage suffered as a result of the guest's dog.

3. What do we want to provide to the dog guests and their pet parents?

Aside from the formalities, we do genuinely want pets and their owners to enjoy their stay at our dog-friendly hotel. That's why we decided to provide complimentary amenities to each and every dog to use during their stay.

The Inn at East Beach opted to offer dog beds, feeding and drinking bowls, and mats for dogs to use throughout their stay. These amenities are provided upon request and based on availability, although we made sure to purchase plenty in advance to best accommodate our furry guests.

To sweeten the deal, we also include a fun dog toy and locally made dog snack bars given to the visiting dogs as a welcome amenity gift. Dog owners are also given waste bags to ensure they clean up after their pets.

We also provide dog parents with a list of pet sitting services should they need to leave the dog at any time during their visit. Another list we hand out also includes pet-friendly locations to visit in Santa Barbara, including restaurants, bars/pubs, wineries, beaches, and parks.

4. What do we need to do operationally to welcome dogs to our hotel?

In becoming dog-friendly, the Inn at East Beach had to invest in new deep cleaning supplies to shampoo the carpets and clean the furniture. This is where that extra $50 non-refundable pet fee helps offset the extra costs associated with cleaning the dog-friendly rooms. For our housekeeping team, we provided door hangers alerting them that there is a dog in the room so they know to come back for cleaning when the dog is not present. We made a standard to not let rooms go uncleaned for two days in a row.

In saying that, we also had to decide which rooms would be designated as dog-friendly rooms. We selected four rooms on the ground floor, two of each bed options; i.e. two with a king bed and two with double queen beds. We also made a note to consider adding a room or two should the demand increase.

And although the Inn at East Beach is right across the street from a large grassy field, we decided to invest in a pet relief area. The station is conveniently located in the hotel's secluded parking lot. The area contains a fake fire hydrant, water bowl, astroturf, waste station, white picket fence, and a lantern to ensure guests feel comfortable taking their dog outside to relieve themselves any time of day or night.

5. What do we need to do from a revenue management standpoint?

Once we had decided on the amount and type of rooms we wanted to delegate as dog-friendly, there was some discussion regarding how to classify them as such in the PMS and booking engine.

To avoid over-selling, we considered changing the room types to pet-friendly to sell them individually. Or was there an easier tracking method?

Eventually, we decided to add a "dog-optional room" descriptor to each room type. If we did create new room types, we would have run the risk of not being able to sell them to guests staying without a dog. By adding the disclaimer and promoting our dog-friendliness, we stated that we have a limited number of dog-optional rooms which are first-come, first-served. If anyone has allergies, they will see this and need to request a non-pet room.

Promoting Our New Dog-Friendliness

The first thing we decided to do to kick off our dog-friendliness at the Inn at East Beach was to host a dog adoption event with local Santa Barbara charity DAWG (the Dog Adoption & Welfare Group) for National Adopt-a-Dog Day on April 30, 2019.

We shared the event with a press release to various media outlets including Southern California Lifestyle Magazine who ended up promoting the event on their social media channels and website event calendar. The local TV station even helped promote the event with their segment on National Pet Adoption Week.

The kick-off event was the public's first look at our new dog-friendliness as a hotel, but there were various marketing strategies we had implemented, and are still using, to entice those traveling with dogs to stay at the Inn at East Beach.

The following is an exhaustive list on our marketing strategies to promote a dog-friendly hotel:

1. Social Media Promotion

We enlisted a team member's pup for a photoshoot to help promote the upcoming dog-friendliness of the hotel on social media. As we were awaiting our kick-off event, we teased out the new policy with photos of a dog on property and hinted about some "exciting news."

When we were ready to announce the news and kick-off event we boosted the Facebook event page to the local area to help generate awareness around the dog adoption event. Cross-promotion from DAWG also helped us spread the word.

2. Email Marketing Campaign

A couple of weeks before the kick-off we sent an email to our past guest list to announce our dog-friendliness. We were sure to include all the benefits of bringing a pup on a guest's travels and the amazing amenities the dog would receive should they stay with us.

The email also included a section on the National Adopt-a-Dog Day Adoption Event giving people a chance to RSVP to the event via previously mentioned Facebook event page.

3. Website Updates & SEO

In synchronization with the social media and email marketing campaigns, we rolled out changes to our website to inform inquiring guests of our dog-friendliness. We were sure to add our pet policy to the site and link it to a sample of our dog agreement.

We sprinkled dog-friendly content throughout our amenity, offers, and home pages to help boost SEO rankings on pet-friendly and dog-friendly hotel searches.

Additionally, a "Now Dog-Friendly" pop-up was enabled on the website to draw immediate attention to the change.

4. PPC & Digital Advertising

Our ad copy and creatives were updated to reflect the dog-friendliness of the property. This included display ads, SEM, and Facebook.

5. Offers & Packages

We are currently developing a package to truly pamper our visiting pooches during their stay. Taking a cue from a package we developed for another dog-friendly property we manage, the Park James Hotel in Menlo Park, CA; we will include a mobile dog grooming service, blanket, bed, bandana, gourmet treat, interactive toy, and human treats for the pet parents. Offering over-the-top packages such as this will help us garner press surrounding the dog-friendliness of the hotel.

6. Enlisting on Pet-Friendly Websites

Last, but certainly not least, we never neglected the power of adding our own listing to sites such as gopetfriendly.com, petswelcome.com, bringfido.com, and petfriendlyhotels.com. Adding the Inn at East Beach to websites like these helps us get in front of pet owners searching for dog-friendly lodging who may have never known about us otherwise.

Becoming a dog-friendly hotel took the Inn at East Beach five months, during which time there was a lot of planning and strategy involved in making it a success. Aside from bringing in extra revenue through offers, packages, and pet fees, we are able to connect and reach a new pet traveler audience.

Pets are part of the family too, and vacations are always better when all members of the family can go. It is truly in the best interest of hotel owners and hotel management companies to consider transforming their properties into pet-friendly locations to stay in line with the competition and drive incremental revenue to the bottom line.

Ms. Hurley Amanda Hurley is Corporate Director of Marketing for broughtonHOTELS, an award winning full service hotel management and advisory services company. Since 2018, Ms. Hurley provides marketing leadership for broughtonHOTELS portfolio of hotels, and oversees broughtonHOTELS marketing, public relations, and digital marketing programs. Orange County based management company, broughtonHOTELS is an innovative and specialized hospitality company in hotel management, investment, and development. The company is well established as an operator of independent, boutique hotels throughout California and Illinois with international partnerships. Before joining broughtonHOTELS in October of 2018, Ms. Hurley spent nearly a decade honing her digital marketing skills for various hospitality companies and marketing agencies. Amanda Hurley can be contacted at 949-468-0480 or amanda@broughtonhotels.com Please visit http://www.broughtonhotels.com for more information. Extended Biography

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Payment for the services provided to you in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive may be made by automatic credit card, debit card, direct debit, bankwire or Paypal and other approved payment means offered in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive, and you hereby authorize HotelExecutive and its agents to transact such payments on your behalf.

You hereby authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card to pay for your membership to HotelExecutive. You further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card for any and all purchases of products, services in association with HotelExecutive. You agree to be personally liable for all charges incurred by you in association with your access or other use of any content provided by HotelExecutive or any third party in association with HotelExecutive. You acknowledge and agree that your liability for all such charges shall continue after termination of your access or any type of membership arrangement with HotelExecutive.

In the event that you have chosen to have your membership automatically rebilled, unless and until you notify HotelExecutive that you wish to cancel or terminate your membership to HotelExecutive, you hereby agree and authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to automatically renew your membership to HotelExecutive on a continuing basis and to charge your credit card (or other payment means you have selected) to pay for the ongoing cost of your membership. You hereby further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card (or other approved payment means you have selected) for any and all purchases of products, services and entertainment provided to in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive.

13. PRIVACY POLICY

The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

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Coming up in November 2019...

Architecture & Design: Biophilic Design

The hospitality industry is constantly evolving to meet and exceed guest expectations. As a result, hotels are always on the lookout for new ways to improve the guest experience, and architecture and design is an essential part of this equation. Bold design is often the most effective way to make an exceptional first impression - an impression guests use to distinguish between brands. One design trend that is being embraced worldwide has become known as “Biophilic Design.” Biophilic design is based on the concept of biophilia, which is the theory that human beings have an innate tendency to seek out nature, natural elements, and natural forms. Biophilic design is more than hotels simply adding a surplus of plants; it involves incorporating specific design elements into a hotel in order to imbue it with a sense of wellness and well-being. Some of those elements include exposure to natural lighting; views of nature and rooms with a view; natural architectural patterns; salvaged or reclaimed woods of all types; reclaimed metals; sustainably sourced stone; living green walls and vertical gardens; and direct and indirect exposure to nature. Hotels that have incorporated biophilic design into their properties are reaping the benefits associated with this trend including reduced stress responses, better air quality, lower energy costs, and more positive guest reviews. Biophilic design has also been shown to improve guest moods and to satisfy consumer demand for environmental responsibility. Savvy hotel owners and managers are aware that nature-inspired elements enhance their guests' comfort and well-being, which is why this trend is becoming so prevalent. Biophilic design is just one topic in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.