Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Avoiding Pet Un-Friendly Hotels

There’s nothing worse than arriving at your hotel after a long stressful day of traveling only to find out that the hotel facilities and polices were misleading. It’s at that moment that you have to make the choice to pack up and leave or live with the lie. In both cases you probably have to shell out additional money which is your punishment for trusting their ads instead of acting like Sherlock Holmes. There are many areas where hotels exaggerate or mislead their clientele, but my particular quandary and most recent disruption refers to hotel’s “pet friendly” policies.
McKayla enjoying the beach in De Haan, Belgium
My husband and I planned a trip to visit Brussels and the Belgian coast along with our 90lb German Shepard, McKayla.  As the designated travel agent, I did the normal research, scanning reviews on and TripAdvisor before settling on the Courtyard Brussels EU and the Hotel Mercure Oostende. Both hotels were presented as pet friendly and as we are familiar with both chains, I didn’t hesitate to reserve a room. It wasn’t until about a week before that a friend told me about her painful experience with so called pet friendly hotels in Brussels, how she wasn’t allowed to leave her dogs unattended at any time, and the hassle the hotel management gave her. Not wishing to encounter the same problems, I quickly called both hotels to inquire about the specifics of their pet friendly policy.

After speaking with the receptionists, I disappointingly discovered that both hotels had similar strict policies that typically mislead pet owners, like myself, to believe that our pets will be treated as members of the family. The Marriott does not allow guests to leave the hotel without their dogs, and the Mercure does not allow guests to leave their rooms without their dogs. So at least at the Marriott we would be allowed to eat breakfast in the hotel and leave our dog unaccompanied in the room, but the Mercure told us that we would have to bring our dog with us to the breakfast dining area.

Please tell me how these policies are considered pet friendly? As pet owners traveling with our senior dog, taking McKayla with us 24/7 is unrealistic and unreasonable. As a general consensus, in my opinion, which is shared by other pet owners, hotels with strict policies such as these should not call themselves pet friendly, but instead “pet tolerant”. Going on vacation should reduce stress not increase it. If hotels are worried about damage or barking then they should simply prohibit animals from residing in the hotel instead of misleading you to think that they will accommodate you when they won’t. Needless to say we avoided this disastrous headache by canceling both reservations and booking a TRUE pet friendly place that would welcome all of us.
Family photo by Lisbeth Ganer Photography
Last year I wrote an article on the pet friendly policies of the Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal, and based on this decided to book the Sofitel Brussels Le Louise, and B&B Villa Verde in De Haan. 
Sofitel Brussels Le Louise lounge area
The Sofitel Brussels Le Louise is a 5-star accommodation and has no qualms about accepting pets of all kinds and sizes. The concierge is responsible for assisting the guests with any special requests, and constantly go out of their way to please. For example, we normally mix in fish or meat with McKayla’s dry food but forgot to bring some. I ordered a piece of plain salmon with no seasoning from room service and there were no issues when I mentioned that it was for our dog. The hotel grounds are beautifully designed and dogs are allowed in most of the common areas of the hotel. Special requests like dog walking can be met, the hotel has signs to place on the doors to let the staff know when dogs are inside, and they also gave us the code to the elevator to access the ground floor instead of having to use the escalator. I spent time talking with the concierge, who was extremely nice, about the different types of animals the hotel had welcomed over the years, clients unique requests, and other funny stories. Upon our departure he presented us with a lovely goodbye letter and gift basket with toys and treats for McKayla. I was truly touched. Overall our stay was better than expected and I wouldn’t hesitate to book again or recommend it to any pet owners visiting Brussels. The Sofitel Brussels Le Louise is a true pet friendly hotel. They believe that pets are part of the family, treat them as such, and never hesitate to lend a hand.
Letter from the Sofitel Brussels Le Louise
Our next stop was the lovely city of De Haan on the Belgian coast. Before booking Villa Verde, I checked with the owners to make sure that dogs were permitted to stay unattended in the room, and they assured me that this was accepted. Upon arrival we were surprised to find that that they had placed a blanket, water bowl, and dog treats in the room for McKayla. The hotel was fantastic, the room spacious with an enormous soaking tub in the center, private terrace overlooking the city, and the location was right in the city center just 10 minutes’ walk from the beach. The owners were extremely nice and took the time to point out walking trails and dog friendly beach locations. The only disappointment was the fact that they were fully booked when we opted to stay an extra night. Their hospitality was genuine, we highly recommend this B&B and will definitely be back in the future.
Blanket, dog bowl, and treats provided by B&B Villa Verde
In my opinion, pet owners do not go looking for hotels to intentionally destroy, so it’s insulting to be treated as such. In our case, and many of the pet owners that we know, we bring our pets along because we want them to enjoy the vacation just as we intend to. That being said, if you have a 10 year old dog with arthritis, it’s not fair to make them walk all day long without the option to rest quietly in the hotel room just because the hotel is afraid of potential damage or claim there are security risks. There are many who are traveling with pets for the first time and may not think to ask such detailed questions. Misleading clientele by advertising the property as pet friendly when in fact they are just pet tolerant doesn’t benefit the guests and won’t make them want to return. If the policies for pets are so stringent then it’s better not to allow them at all. Pets are part of the family and if the hotel policy doesn’t embrace this belief then they shouldn’t label themselves as pet friendly.

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