Hoteliers worldwide are reaching for their dog bowls to meet the increasing demand of business travellers bringing their pets.

Guests at Giraffe Manor, a 1930s luxury boutique hotel near Nairobi in Kenya, have long appreciated its famous resident herd of Rothschild’s giraffes. While diners browse the breakfast menu, giraffes pop their heads into the restaurant through large windows to see what delights are on the buffet.

Welcoming animals inside properties has historically not been quite so popular. But pampered pooches, fussed-over felines and one or two other unusual travelling companions are increasingly appearing in some of the most upmarket hotels.

Pet passports and revised policies by airlines and train providers have made it easier than ever for people to travel with their four-legged friends. And after the years of lockdown and working from home, the number of business travellers with pets they can’t leave behind has also increased.

As a result, the hospitality industry is looking afresh at animal opportunities, with specialised travel agencies including them in their programmes and hoteliers scrambling to accommodate their new guests with dog baskets, dog menus, Dogalize Maps for nearby strolls and even doggy daycare centres.

Creature comforts

The Rosewood London, for example, recently enhanced its offering with a special ‘Expawriences’ menu, which offers services such as dog-sitting and dog walking for when you have to attend human-only meetings, as well as grooming and training to make sure canines are looking and behaving their best in upmarket surroundings.

The hotel also welcomes feline friends, with cat toys, a comfortable bed and a litter tray, plus a helpful guide highlighting local shops and pubs that are all pet friendly. The only request the hotel makes is that all pets are kept on a lead in public areas, and owners are expected to keep barking to a minimum (the dog, not the owner).

Over at one of London’s newest luxury hotels, The Peninsula, domestic pets, emotional support animals and service animals are also welcome at no additional charge. The only caveat being that guests must notify the hotel of the weight and breed of the pet. Presumably this ensures there are some checks and balances in place, should your emotional support animal happen to be a 15kg boa constrictor.

This isn’t quite so tongue in cheek as you might imagine. As resident manager at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, I once found a bath full of frogs that a guest had bought in a local market and intended to take home. David Levin, former owner of The Capital Hotel in London, told me of one guest who brought their own jellyfish along in a wash bag.

Sometimes it’s not just guests who take it too far. At La Villa Hamster in Nantes, France, accommodation was created to offer a different kind of pet experience, with one room decorated as an adult-size hamster cage with its own walking wheel. Guests were encouraged to not only bring their pet rodent, but also their own hamster pyjamas and enjoy sleeping on a haystack. Sadly, for those who occasionally feel murine, the property has recently closed.

Pest control

But what about guests who aren’t quite so fond of animals? A five-star experience would quickly lose its shine if allergies were activated, phobias were triggered or accidents were stepped in.

Of course, guests are expected to pick up any deposits left by their charges, but there are other less-visible health and safety risks to consider. During a recent stay in an Austrian hotel, I had the misfortune to be bitten by a tick while enjoying a yoga session on the floor of my bedroom. While irritating in both an emotional and physical sense, ticks can also be dangerous, as they carry the serious bacterial infection Lyme disease.

Management were, naturally, extremely apologetic and offered compensation on the accommodation bill, explaining the previous guest had stayed with their St Bernard dog who had most likely smuggled the offending parasite into the room.

Ultimately, some business travellers may feel safer keeping their animal encounters to the zoo. But we shouldn’t look too unkindly upon travelling pets. In the years that I ran luxury hotels, I never had a business traveller’s best friend steal silverware or take a picture off the wall. The minibar and the bathroom amenities were left untouched, and they never watched television with the volume up loud. In fact, they were often better behaved than some of their owners.

Derek Picot has been a hotelier for more than 30 years, and is author of Hotel Reservations.