Discrimination is probably too strong a word. Perhaps inept exclusion is a better term to define how certain British pet owners feel they are treated when trying to arrange travel and holidays. But are we right to feel let down by the tourism industry? Or is there a simple communication problem between pet owners wishing to take their pets on holiday and the businesses wishing to cater for us?
Patrick Ellis investigates delving into the thoughts of both pet owners and non-pet owners.
Ten years ago we carried out a survey to establish what the attitudes of British businesses would be toward a more pet friendly nation, so what has changed?
The results suggested that the majority of businesses large and small were more than willing to make minor adjustments to accommodate customers with pets. Holiday destinations and businesses within the tourism industry registered a very positive response towards becoming more pet friendly.
62% of the businesses we spoke to said that they would seek to raise their profile by being pet friendly. However, there was an inherent concern that portrayal as a pet friendly establishment heightened the risk of alienating non-pet owners. Could it be that there is an intention on the part of businesses to welcome customers with pets, but the message is not getting through clearly to the customers? Or is it that businesses see pet owners as a less desirable demographic to attract?
Out of the non-pet owners surveyed, nearly two thirds said that an overtly pet friendly attitude on the part of a tourism or holiday related business would not adversely affect their attitude towards that business. In other words, two thirds of non-pet owners don’t necessarily mind if they share their holiday space with other people’s pets. Factor this against the 72% of pet owners who would be encouraged to visit an actively pet friendly establishment and the risk of alienation by businesses towards their non-pet owning customers is revealed as a small one.
The majority of pets in Britain, especially dogs are owned by families rather than individuals. Therefore putting a simple pet friendly message out ensures that any custom directly generated as a result will be that of families looking to bring their dog/s on holiday.
With the obvious tentative attitudes of both the pet owner and the business owner in mind, it’s easy to see why pet friendly holidays are not as popular as they should be. Each side has registered doubts about the suitability of pets on holiday, whether that is through fear of loosing custom, or fear of ruining that once a year treat which is the British holiday.
It is clear that attitudes towards pet friendly holidays are shifting, but there are still a large percentage of pet owners who board their pets rather than take them away. There are now many more options in the UK and abroad for families wishing to holiday with their dogs. Vineet Lal, Brand Manager for England Marketing, part of the Visitengland.com network explained why Britain is a great place to Holiday with the pets "Whether for a great day out, a short break or a fortnight's holiday. We'd love to encourage even more people to get out and enjoy everything that England has to offer with their pets, quality accommodation - combined with the ability to take your pet with you – it is something we need to promote more.
Since the advent of the pet travel scheme, to travel abroad with your pets has become easy. Even America has now joined the pet travel scheme. Jean Train, spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who are responsible for upholding the pet travel scheme explained “Many pet owners may not be aware of the opportunities available to them as tourists. As long as passports and vaccinations are kept up to date, it is a lot easier for people to holiday abroad with their pets nowadays. One thing I would like to draw attention to is the fact that the vaccinations required in the terms of the pet passport scheme do not cover all diseases worldwide. Separate vaccinations may be required when travelling to certain destinations.”
As with all pet friendly holidays the trend seems to be that the holiday is just as much for the dog, as it is for the family. With this is mind, outdoors based holidays seem to be more popular than ever, so we compared the options available to dog owners here in the UK with international holiday makers.
We took the two most popular holiday types for the dog owning family and compared our facilities with those of other destinations available on the pet travel scheme.
We have our fair share of beaches, but not too many where pets are welcome. Cornwall’s beaches are the most pet friendly. Pembrokeshire is known nationally as a very pet friendly resort with some award winning beaches, but its international reputation is not of a particularly high profile The obvious disadvantage with our beaches is the weather. With beach holidays only really being an option during summer, we are limited in both time and facilities.
We can offer brilliant scenery and facilities when it comes to country breaks. Derbyshire’s Peak District being one of many pet friendly resorts to boast stunning views and relaxing amenities. The Lake District is another region which can claim internationally renowned status as a pet friendly destination.