Tourism sector urged to adapt to dog-friendly travel demands


There is hardly a dog owner who doesn’t regard his pet as a member of the family. When they want to go on vacation, many want to take their dog with them. 

The estimate for dog-friendly travel in the world will be $50.1 billion by 2030, but many hotels and other vacation spots don’t allow them to enter. It seems that the same phenomenon is occurring in the US, Europe, and Israel. In the UK alone, 29% of adults have at least one dog in their home, with 4.1 million dogs having been acquired since March 2020, bringing the UK dog population to about 11 million this year.

A team at the University of Surrey in the UK uncovered the potential of the growing dog-friendly travel market. They polled 611 dog owners online. The researchers said the COVID-19 pandemic drove an increase in UK household dog ownership, creating a need for tourism providers to adapt to accommodate these four-legged family members.

Cats and dogs, illustrative (credit: Flickr/Douglas Sprott)
Their study has just been published in the Journal of Vacation Marketing under the title “The social behavior of traveling with dogs: Drivers, behavioral tendencies, and experiences.”

The Surrey team set out to understand why people travel with their dogs, how they feel about it, and what challenges they face doing so. Lori Hoy, doctoral researcher and the lead author said: “Some reports suggest that the UK dog population stands at 11 million, with 29% of UK adults having a dog in their home. So, it stands to reason that more people want to include their canine best friend in their holiday plans. Tourism providers who embrace this trend stand to benefit significantly,” she stated. 

“Understanding what influences the decision-making process of people who want to travel with their dogs will enable destinations, accommodation providers, attractions, and transport suppliers to offer tailored, dog-friendly services and communication channels that resonate with this audience.”

She advised tourism providers to provide clear, easily accessible information about their dog-friendly offerings, alleviate concerns, and communicate how the travel experience will be enjoyable for both dogs and people.

The research highlighted the motivations and behavioral tendencies of dog owners when it comes to traveling with their beloved pets. The study is grounded in four essential social perceptions, including the human-dog relationship, beliefs about dog wellbeing, information acquisition, and perceived risks, all of which significantly impact the owners’ motivation and behavior when considering whether and where to spend their holiday budgets. 

Pet owners believe the dog accompanying them promote the pet’s well-being and happiness; this had the most substantial positive impact on their intention to travel. The owners said that obtaining dog-friendly travel information significantly influenced their motivation to travel and significantly affected the location and accommodation they searched for and subsequently booked for their holidays. 

Although the perceived risks did not affect the dog owners’ intentions to travel with their dogs, they did have a direct, negative impact on the ultimate decision to travel with their dogs. These risks include concerns about potential problems with transportation, accommodation, and activities while traveling with dogs. 

Hoy concluded that “embracing a dog-friendly approach in tourism goes beyond mere tolerance. It’s about creating a welcoming atmosphere and services tailored for the well-being of both dogs and their best friends. This involves offering engaging activities, understanding dogs as sentient beings that are part of the leisure experience, and providing easily accessible information about dog-specific policies.”

She added that targeted marketing and clear communication about dog-friendly offerings are essential. By doing so, tourism providers can not only enhance the experience for those traveling with dogs but also position themselves as truly dog-friendly destinations, meeting the needs and expectations of both dogs and their guardians.”