WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.--Sleeping dogs finally have a place to lie. In a hotel industry-first, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. HOT announced today that its Sheraton, Westin and W hotels will welcome dogs brand wide in the U.S. and Canada. Not only is there finally room at the inn for man's best friends, but each of the hotel brands will also pamper pooches with luxurious dog beds and amenities like plush robes, doggie toys and canine massages.

Kevin Heilbronner is the US Editor for wiredhotelier.com and hospitalitynet.org, providing streaming multimedia-content for these websites. Based outside of Washington DC, Heilbronner has worked with Hsyndicate to conduct interviews at several hospitality trade shows in the US and Europe over the last couple of years. His column and content are featured in the Hospitality Net weekly newsletter. A familiar voice in Washington, DC, Heilbronner is the stadium announcer for the NBA's Washington Wizards, WNBA's Washington Mystics and WUSA's Washington Freedom. He resides in Centreville, VA and can be reached via email: [email protected].

Every Dog has its Duvet - Starwood spent millions of dollars to make its hotel beds the best in the business from W's signature pillow top beds to the famous ten-layer Westin Heavenly Beds® and the brand new Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds. As part of its new Starwood LTD (Love that Dog) program, the company is introducing new luscious, comfy beds for its four-legged guests. Starwood's new dog beds are custom-designed oversized pet pillows by Eloise Pet Accessories, a doggie line described as "where style and fashion meet man's best friend." Eloise's pet accessories are favorites of celebrities including Daryl Hannah, Dyan Cannon and Deborah Messing. Each brand worked with Eloise to design dog beds that mirror their hotels' human beds and guest room design. Westin's dog bed features a miniature Heavenly Bed duvet while W's take on the dog bed is a stylish and colorful checkerboard pattern and Sheraton's version is a classic, all-American red and blue design.

Besides the beds, each brand will also offer food and water bowls and temporary I.D. tags with hotel contact information. In addition, a traveling tip card will be provided to all guests traveling with their dogs upon check-in, thanks to a partnership with The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Other amenities include plush doggie robes, leashes and collars at some Westin hotels and a pet check in package at W hotels that includes a pet toy, dog treat and bone plus a special turn down treat on the dog bed. And some hotels are really going the extra mile to spoil dogs rotten. The five W hotels in New York City will take pet pampering to a whole new level by offering in-room doggie massages by a licensed dog massage therapist (especially beneficial for dogs who have traveled by planes in small crates).

Who Let the Dogs Inn? - So why is Starwood catering to canines? With 62 million dog owners in the U.S. and 29 million who hit the road with their dogs in tow according to the Travel Industry Association of America, dog owners are a market niche that's been underserved by the travel industry. Most upscale and luxury hotel chains have varied pet policies meaning some hotels welcome dogs while others do not. Starwood is changing that.

"We intend to become the most dog-friendly hotel company in the land, and not just allow dogs to stay, but actually pamper and spoil them," said Barry S. Sternlicht, Starwood's Chairman and CEO, and proud papa of Comet, a Jack Russell Terrier and Potter, a Black Labrador. "We believe that like dogs, dog owners tend to be very loyal, and will reward a company that loves dogs, too."

Research supports Sternlicht's intuition. According to a new study of 400 dog owners commissioned by Starwood, 76% said they would be more loyal to a hotel chain that accepted dogs, even when they weren't traveling with their pet. And when they learn that some of the world's most celebrated hotel brands are rolling out the red carpet for pooches, they'll likely be surprised - 82% said they did not believe most upscale hotels allowed dogs, and 48% said that if they did, it was reluctantly. In fact, 16% even admitted to smuggling their dog into hotels that banned dogs!

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.--While we've all seen Spot and Barney Bush bounding toward Air Force One to accompany the President and the First Lady on their travels, most dog owners don't find it quite so easy to bring Fido along on the road, which can lead to depressed dogs and guilty owners.

According to "Dogs and Travel: An Attitudinal Study of Dog Owners by Starwood Hotels & Resorts"* a survey of 400 dog owners, 43% say their dog definitely seems sad when they travel; 23% said their pooch gets mad at them when they leave; and nearly half (43%) feel guilty leaving their dog behind. And out of sight does not mean out of mind. Ninety-four percent of dog owners said they ask how their dog is doing when they phone home; nearly half (49%) think about their dog "very often" when they're away; 65% have brought a gift home for their dog; and 26% of owners who call home actually talk to their dog on the phone.

Luckily, absence does make the heart grow fonder. "Dogs and Travel," conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide, found that 97% of owners said their dog gets excited when they return home; 87% said their dog is the first one who greets them when they return, before their kids and spouse; and 78% said their dog is more excited to see them than their spouse (6%) or kids (5%). Only 9% said their dog gives them the cold shoulder after a long trip.

So with all this love and loyalty, why leave the pooch at home? Nearly half the owners surveyed don't. Forty-seven percent have traveled on overnight trips with their dog in the past year and of these owners, 40% said their dog has stayed overnight with them at a hotel or motel.

Dog Discrimination on the Road? - According to owners though, there isn't always room at the inn for canine guests. Eighty-two percent said they are under the impression that most upscale hotels don't accept dogs, and, if they do, 48% said it is reluctantly. Sixteen percent of dog owners have even admitted to smuggling their pet into hotels that ban dogs.

Starwood Lets Sleeping Dogs Lie - In New Dog Beds Brand wide - All that's about to change. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and its Sheraton, Westin and W hotel brands are rolling out the red carpet for dogs. Not only will dogs be welcome brand wide, each brand will also offer special amenities and luxurious custom-designed beds for pooches - and good thing about those dog beds since 62% of dog owners said they had to share their bed with the pooch when they traveled.

Why the focus on dogs? With 62 million dog owners in the U.S. and 29 million who hit the road with their dogs in tow according to the Travel Industry Association of America, dogs and their owners are a market niche that's been underserved by the travel industry. And Starwood's own survey of dog owners found that 37% would definitely take their dogs on more trips if they knew more hotels accepted dogs, and 76% said they would be more loyal to a hotel chain that accepted dogs, even when they weren't traveling with their pet.

Dogs on Vacation - When they do get to join the family on vacation - and 78% of dog owners do consider their dog an "equal member" of their family - dogs enjoy the holiday as much as their people. Consider:

When asked what dogs enjoy most on vacation 21% of owners said car rides; 9% swimming; 3% sleeping more; 8% playing more; and 58% said being with the family.

When dogs are on vacation, 33% of owners said pooches take on a different personality; 18% said they sleep later than at home; 12% said they eat more and 40% said their dogs get more activity than at home.

(*) This study conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide is a nationwide survey of dog owners who travel. Dog owners were screened from a randomly selected telephone listing of households compiled by a nationally known listing source. In order for respondents to qualify, they had to be dog owners at least 18 years old, who had either traveled in the past year and left their dogs behind, and/or taken their dogs with them on at least one overnight trip. 400 interviews were conducted. The telephone interview took on average about 15 minutes to complete. Results have a margin of error on totals of plus or minus four to six percentage points. The margin of error for subgroups is higher. Interviewing was conducted between June 27th and July 9th 2003.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 740 properties in more than 80 countries and 105,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. With internationally renowned brands, Starwood is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels and resorts including: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, W brands, as well as Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high-quality vacation interval ownership resorts. For more information, please visit www.starwood.com.

K.C. Kavanagh
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