Why The Future Is Four Legs Not Two: The Potential For Pet Tourism
By Ian Yeoman, Associate Professor at Victoria University School of Management
The future of human tourism doesn't seem to be that good, with IATA forecasting global air travel will fall by 5.7% in 2009 including premium travel falling by 12%. The IMF has warned that the UK economy will shrink by 3.8% in 2009 and deflation is a threat in most OECD countries. It all sounds depressing. Therefore, we need a radical strategy or need to find a new market. Tourism Futurologist Dr Ian Yeoman talks about the potential for the four legged tourist.
What is the potential for pet tourism as a luxury experience?
For starters, Las Ventanas is one of the most luxurious and exotic locations in Mexico for humans, but at the same time, the resort has developed special menus and massages to pamper furry friends vacationing in the lap of luxury. A Feline Delight's menu for the well-fed cat pleases even the most finicky palate with selections that include 'The Claw Cleaner' (albacore tuna, chopped egg and sour cream), 'Kitty Captain's Plate' (scrambled eggs and poached salmon) and 'Tomcat's Favourite' (a selection of seafood). Dogs have their own Canine Delights menu, with everything from 'The Rin Tin Tin' (shredded braised beef and steamed rice) to 'Doggie Delights' (doggy chews, rawhides and jerky). For pets who require a special diet or who simply crave a particular food, the chef will prepare made-to-order dishes. All pet cuisine is served on petware: metallic bowls with faux gemstones and bone-shaped or kitty-design placemats.
Humans drink Perrier, Evian and Highland Spring, all varieties of bottled mineral water. Mineral water for cats and dogs is now available from Mollibrands, whereas Doggy Java offers a powdered vitamin drink for cats and dogs as well as guinea pigs. Not to feel left out in the bar, Happy Tail Ale is a new non-alcoholic beer for dogs. Made with choice malted barley and filtered water, the new brew comes in a beef flavour, and is fortified with Vitamin E and glucosamine.
Another key driver of tourism is the second home market, how about the case of a Great Dane owner in the UK, who spent US $380,000 on a canine mansion for his pooch, which included a spa and 100cm plasma TV. The mansion comes with two bedrooms with temperature controlled beds in each with outlined surface of sheepskin along the exterior of the bed. It also includes a day lounge, a 30cm deep pool, as well as automated food and water dispensers that pour their meal into self-cleaning food and drinking bowls. But that's nothing compared to the iris scanner to keep away other pets or animals from sneaking in. At least this Canine Mansion is eco friendly. It's fully equipped with geothermal heating along with wind and solar power generators.
If you are not happy with your pooches looks, how about a makeover? A Florida company has found its own niche in the market—selling pet wigs. With Wiggles wigs for dogs, you'll never have to look at the fur your dog was born with or comb and style its unruly mane. Now you can just shave its head and cover the bald zones with a 'do' of your choice. Sparky won't even have to look like a Jack Russell anymore—with long, human-like hair, he can look like a four-legged Barbie doll. Then there is sun beds for dogs (sort of). SunSpa simulates sunlight and provides a warm and soothing haven for cats and dogs. The SunSpa's elegant wooden arch provides a stable base and convenient handles for easy manoeuverability. The light itself maintains a comfortable temperature of 80-85 degrees on the bed's surface, lasts 5000 hours and is 150 watts. The luxurious crypton fabric cover is odour resistant, water resistant, stain resistant, and is machine washable. Along with the cover, the soft foam padding folds up for easy storage.
We know we are in the technology era with GPS systems in cars, mobile phones and children's raincoats. Zoombak offers a GPS dog locator system that sends a message to your cell phone if your dog leaves the yard. Radio Systems Corp sells electronic doorbells so your pets can let you know when they want to go in or out, and also sells radio-controlled pet doors that automatically unlock when your dog or cat's special collar comes near. Nullodor sells a cat litter that changes colour if your kitty has a bladder infection or liver problem.
Wellington, New Zealand is the home to Wearable Arts, however Pitbull Armory makes armoured jackets and accessories for squirrels (yes squirrels) and dogs, all designer gear, fashionable and arty. If you think that is not sexy enough, how about the world's only perfume for dogs. SexyBeast is a blend of bergamot and vanilla infused with patchouli, mandarin and nutmeg oil, a scent to make any bitch turn the heat on.
Finally, if the scent doesn't work, how about sex toys for dogs. Hotdoll is a sex doll for dogs. It's shaped like a dog and it'll allow your tension-filled pet to go to town as much as his little heart desires, humping away until he passes out in exhaustion, leaving a wispy coil of friction-singed dog-fur smoke wafting into the air.
Why don't you marry your pet?
At a July 2005 wedding in Wanganui, New Zealand, the groom Glen Armitage designated his dog as best man (aren't dogs our best friend?) but you can go one stage further and marry your pet. If you log onto http://www.marryyourpet.com/ you will be able to marry your pet, you can choose the 'simple wedding' for US $10 or the 'big wedding' for US $85 which comes with a T-shirt. In addition, the website carries a disclaimer advising, inter alia, that "by marrying your pet he/she may be entitled to half your house and all your income", so you have being warned!
As Thomas Lewis notes in the General Theory of Love
The relationship between owners and pets is a strong one as they spend time with each other, they read each others emotional cues, each will find the presence of the other soothing and comforting, and each will tune and regulate the psychology of the other.....
So, what does this all mean for the tourism industry?
Be Pet Friendly
In the UK, around two million dogs and one million pets are taken away on holiday each year, therefore it makes business sense to accommodate these pets. The following guidelines are adapted from VisitBritian's Pet Welcome Scheme for accommodation providers;
- A water bowl and food bowl available on request for the sole use of each pet accommodated
- Where animals are permitted to eat in bedrooms a protective feeding mat to be provided
- Torch and nightlights to be available on request
- Access to refrigeration facilities on request
- Where dogs and cats are accepted, one of the following facilities to be available on request: Toys, Chews/treats (chargeable), Bedding (chargeable), Spare leads.
- Cats: A litter tray, litter, scoop and disposal bags to be provided. Suitable disposal facilities to be provided e.g. lidded bin
- Dogs: A scoop and disposal bags to be provided. Where dogs are permitted access to grounds, a dedicated bin for waste disposal to
- be provided
- Signage to alert staff and other guests to the presence of pets in bedrooms. Method of indicating whether staff can access the bedroom e.g. a notice 'Pet inside – do not enter'.
- Rooms should be located on ground floor or close to external access
- Pre buying of food for pets service available (chargeable). Information available on costs prior to arrival
- Pet washing facilities available, including bucket, hose and towel
- Storage space provided for animal transportation crate/ cage brought by owners
- Following each departure, all areas used by pets to be cleaned thoroughly to remove any evidence of them (including odours)
- Further information from http://www.qualityintourism.co.uk/content/pdfs/Welcome%20Schemes/Welcome%20Pets!.pdf
In times of economic downturn, innovation and creativity are even more important in searching out new markets, so use pet tourism to distinguish your business from the competition. Some suggestions include:
- Pet weddings
- Dog holidays
- Pet walking services
- Pet menu's
- A deluxe pet bed
- Advise on walking trails for dogs
- Exercise service
- Sex toys (it will create a good media story)
- Pet massage service etc......
I can only conclude that the future of tourism in New Zealand, is all about four legs not two!
PS has anyone tried out the hotdoll on their pooch!
Victoria University Management School | Victoria University
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