By The Hospitable Team
Do guests keep on asking if your vacation rental is pet-friendly? If your bookings aren’t as high as they could be, you’d be right to wonder if it’s because of a no-pet rule.
Around 90 million US households own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. And that figure has increased by 5 million in the last 2 years. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that everybody and their dog wants to bring a pet to your STR right now.
If you’ve ever known a pet owner, you’ll know how difficult it can be to go on holiday without the furriest member of the family. Boarding houses are expensive and some pets are just too needy to be left with friends.
But people can be messy enough, what kind of state will your property be left in if you start letting guests bring pets, too? We’ve spoken to experienced pet-friendly hosts to get the inside scoop on whether inviting furry guests is worth the hassle.
Are you tired of guests asking if your rental is pet-friendly again and again?
Here’s why some hosts allow pets in their rentals
There must be a few perks to allow pets in your rental because there are plenty of hosts who do it. Here’s why other hosts are going pet-friendly:
The demand for pet-friendly rentals is growing
Pet-ownership is booming in the USA and Europe, especially since remote working has become more widespread. Did you know that 1 in 2 professionals in the U.S. adopted a pet in 2020-21 while working from home? That’s a lot of pets who might need a vacation.
‘A pet-friendly space’ is the most searched amenity on Airbnb, beating even kitchens, Wi-Fi, and free parking. And niche online travel agencies (OTAs) that target pet-owners are becoming increasingly popular too. Bring Fido, one of the biggest pet travel sites and lifestyle brands out there, now lists over 250,000 pet-friendly destinations.
For some hosts, accepting pets is a no-brainer because they’re pet owners themselves. They know just how important it is that every member of the family is welcome on vacation.
“We are dog lovers and consider them family so we wanted our guests to be able to experience true family vacations with the whole family.” – Stephanie Alexander, Airbnb Superhost
The pet-friendly label allows you to increase your rates
Pets Pyjamas, a pet-friendly travel agent, has 360,000 active guests, showing that pet-lovers are willing to look further afield than trusted names like Airbnb and Booking.com, and the competition is high.
But pet owners treat their furry friends like family, so guests with pets will pay more to know their pets are welcome and comfortable. Your guests won’t be surprised by these additional costs either, since it’s pretty common practice for vacation rentals.
“I charge a premium,” says Teri Trifiletti, a host with 9 properties in Charlotte, NC. Lots of people are traveling with pets and I didn’t want to lose out on that market.”
You can choose whether to simply increase your overall night rate, or follow the example of some Airbnb hosts and use the platform’s ‘send or request money’ feature to charge an additional ‘pet fee’.
Some hosts even do both. Seb at Lodgeur, a property management company, accepts pets “subject to additional nap fees that go to the building (one-off application) and an increased nightly rate for us.”
Harness the power of the twilight bark
Word of mouth referrals (a.k.a ‘the twilight bark’) is a powerful form of marketing, especially if you take direct bookings. And there’s a big community of pet-lovers out there who all love to share their pets’ adventures on social media. Welcoming people’s pets will make your STR 110% more Instagrammable and potentially get you more referrals.
“My pet-friendly properties are always left [cleaner] than my family properties. I have guests return again and again. 50% of further bookings are returning guests.” – Anonymous host on the Airbnb Profit Club Facebook group
Did you know? The most famous canine influencer, jiffpom, has 9.9m followers on Instagram. That’s a bigger following than Samuel L. Jackson. So, more people would notice if your property got a shout out from jiffpom than if it came recommended by a major Hollywood celeb!
And here’s why other hosts would never make their rentals pet-friendly
Naturally, there are also downsides to having pets to visit. Here are the main reasons some hosts won’t permit pets:
You risk damages to your property
Wherever they are, pets love to scratch, chew, and tumble. In fact, they might even be more prone to mischievous behavior in new environments, meaning your property could become damaged.
Be warned: some insurance policies will become void if you accept pets. Airbnb hosts won’t need to worry, because AirCover includes damage caused by pets, but if you host elsewhere or have your own insurance policy, you should check the fine print.
You may have to deal with some unhappy neighbors
Hosting strangers while keeping the neighbors happy can be a fine balancing act, and adding pets to the mix just brings more challenges. Some neighbors will make complaints if they keep being woken up by barking dogs or finding unexpected messes in their garden.
If the neighbors are pet-owners themselves, it’s still worth assessing the situation before accepting four-legged guests. Even the most beloved pets can cause friction when other animals threaten their territory.
It’s hard to keep your rental allergen-friendly
You may have state-of-the-art cleaning equipment designed for removing pet hair, but seeing the ‘pet-friendly’ label might put off guests with severe allergies.
If you’re worried about this, include details about your cleaning process on your listing. But be sure to communicate carefully at the booking stage, as you may not be able to guarantee that guests with severe pet hair allergies won’t be triggered during their stay.
You might encounter extra cleaning costs
Pet hair aside, there are other messes and accidents that can occur when you have animals on the premises. If your guests don’t clean up after toilet time, your cleaners could charge you extra. To protect yourself against extra cleaning costs, request a security deposit at the booking stage (more on this later).
Tips and advice for going pet-friendly
Yes, there are some risks for property owners welcoming guests with pets. But they might not be an issue if you’re prepared. We asked pet-friendly hosts to answer your burning questions:
Will having strict rules mean pet-owners don’t feel welcome?
Anyone faced with a long list of rules might feel lectured. But, there are ways to make your guests (and their pets) feel welcome just the same.
One host we spoke to recommended creating a pet welcome basket to help guests take care of their pet and your property during their stay. She suggests including:
- A pet blanket for protecting sofa during snuggles
- Furniture covers or throws that can be machine washed
- A pet towel for drying pets off after outdoor adventures
- Food and water bowls to encourage owners not to use other crockery for their pets
- Waste bags for clearing up messes near the property and on local walks
- Toys and treats just for fun
Alongside these pet comforts, you could include a printed handbook with information about local dog-friendly walks and instructions such as:
- Please use the items provided for your pet. Save other dishes and linens for human guests.
- Keep your pet on a leash at all times while walking the local area (for their safety as well as other animals).
- Clean up after your pet using the waste bags and cleaning products provided.
- Let us know how much your pet loved their stay by taking a photo of them and tagging us on social media!
Another host who welcomes pets at her property recommended going “all in” and making it your brand niche. Photos of your pet welcome basket, or even of your own pets hanging out at your STR, will make pet-owners feel welcome—even if they do have to follow a few rules.
If you decide to go pet-friendly, should you charge a pet fee?
You’d be wise to protect yourself from additional cleaning or maintenance fees caused by pets. Here’s how some hosts cover the cost of going pet-friendly:
- Charge a pet fee. Some guests will be open to this, as it could be cheaper (and less hassle) than finding a pet sitter or boarding service.
- Count the pet as an extra guest. This approach means you can easily increase the cost in line with pre-set charges on your OTA listing.
- Increase the security deposit. The benefit of an increased security deposit is that guests have more incentive to treat your property with respect if they think they’ll get their money back.
And should you allow ALL kinds of pets?
Pet-friendly hosts suggest that you communicate well with your guests beforehand to understand the size, breed, and number of pets they want to bring. You can update your house rules to specify whether you accept both cats and dogs (or other pet types if you’re adventurous).
Alternatively, inform guests that you’ll consider each pet on a case-by-case basis. It sounds quite time-consuming, but STR automation software can help manage the communication process without adding to your to-do list. For some hosts, pre-approving pets during the booking process means they don’t feel the need to charge fees at all.
All your STR business in one convenient window
“I’m dog friendly and don’t charge fees but require pre-approval of your pets. People love this about my units. Finding a niche among other properties is helpful!” – Anonymous host on the Airbnb Profit Club Facebook group
Is pet-friendly the way forward?
Opening your doors to people’s pets is a big decision. There are some great benefits, and a few risks, to take into account.
As always, it’s a good idea to consider your market niche. What type of customers do you want to attract? Are they the sort of people who will find the idea of a pet-friendly property appealing? And if you don’t yet have a market niche, maybe now’s time to carve one out by targeting the pet-owner demographic.
If pet-friendly is the life for you, technology could help you manage the shift. Pre-approving furry (and non-furry) visitors will be less time-consuming with software that can send personalized messages on your behalf and automatically remind your guests of important house rules. Plus, you’ll love features like calendar syncing and smart pricing when you’re inundated with returning guests wanting to book direct for their pet-friendly stays!
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