Every hotel tries to offer its guests a unique and memorable experience. Depending on the market to which they are targeting, some of the ways that they do this is to have a theme, add luxurious touches to the room, offer a wide range of facilities or entertainment options, and to have outstanding restaurants on-site. One hotel chain has found its own way of standing out from the competition that also benefits rescue dogs. Aloft hotels, which is part of the Marriott Hotels Group, decided to adopt an unusual approach to giving guests a unique and pleasurable stay in their hotels by establishing the dog foster program. They currently have the program operating in four of their locations. Imagine the delight of weary travelers as they arrive at the hotels to see a dog sitting behind the reception desk. Staff then invite guests to spend time with the dogs, which many people find comforting and relaxing after a difficult day of travel. The guests are then told that the dogs are from a shelter and are currently available for adoption. This can turn a mundane business trip into an opportunity to meet your new best friend.
According to Dogster, the idea for this program came from Emma Leadbetter, who is the corporate food and beverage manager for McKibbon Hospitality. Her idea was inspired by a true love of dogs, which is something that she discussed with a fellow traveler during a long flight. Her fellow passenger was a representative of an organization called Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue . Emma had initially had an idea to start a hotel dog program, which was something about which she was already in talks with management. However, this plan changed after the travel companions began to discuss a way that they could collaborate, and they spent the rest of the journey brainstorming. When Emma was making her return journey two days later, she was surprised to find that she was sitting next to the same person. They picked up the conversation where they had left off, and they eventually came up with a plan that involved using rescue dogs to work in the hotel with the potential of them finding an adoptive home. It seemed that this idea could benefit everyone.
The idea involves the dogs becoming residents of the hotel so that they can meet and greet guests. Many people find the presence of a dog a great comfort while they are away from home in a strange environment. During this time, the hotel is a temporary home for the dog, and the hotel staff is responsible for the animal’s care. Initially, the dog is given an observation period that allows them to settle into their new environment. The staff then keep a log of when the dog eats or is taken for a walk, and they also supervise visits to the guests. If there are guests who are interested in adopting one of the dogs, then the hotel contacts the staff at Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue. At this point, the staff at the shelter are responsible for vetting any potential adopters. There are several stages in this process, including contacting any landlords, speaking to veterinarians, and checking out the adopter’s home.
Word has now spread about the program, both locally and further afield. Dog-loving locals have started visiting the hotel to spend some time with the dogs and to bring them some treats. People from further afield are traveling over long distances just so that they can meet the dogs and stay in a dog-friendly hotel. Some of the guests who visit the hotel have come specifically with adopting a dog in mind. Those who already have a dog at home bring them along on the trip. This gives the dogs a chance to meet. These familiarization meetings is something that is not always possible when adopting a dog directly from the shelter, but it is possible for guests who are staying at the hotel. It gives the potential adopters to find out if the two dogs will get on together, and if the rescue dog is a good fit for their family. Also, when meetings take place in shelters, it is unusual that adopters will spend more than a couple of hours at the shelter. Some people would argue that this is insufficient time to get to know a dog and make a big decision about adoption. Meeting in the hotel allows the potential adopters and the dog to spend longer together of a period of several days.
The fact that the dog and the potential new owner have the chance to spend longer together increases the chances of a successful adoption. This means that dogs have a better chance of finding their forever home, and shelters will not face dogs being returned. Therefore, there are benefits for everyone involved in this process. So far, the hotel locations that are taking part in the program are the McKibbon Aloft Hotels in Tallahassee in Florida, Orlando in Florida, Greenville in South Carolina, and Asheville in North Carolina. Between these four hotels, the total number of dogs adopted is more than 360.
The speed at which the project took off and the level of success is something that has astounded Emma. When the project was first launched, Emma thought it would take around three months to find the first dog at home. However, the first dog at the hotel was adopted within three days. She could not believe that it had all happened so quickly. Once the project got going, it has continued at the same pace ever since. Although the initial idea was intended as a way of improving the guests’ experience of staying in the hotels, it has become a fantastic way of helping animals in need, too. At the moment, the intention is to continue with this program at the four hotels currently participating.