The pet resort industry consistently grew year over year between 2016 and 2020, seeing greater than 6% growth during those years. Currently estimated at $8 billion per year for non-vet pet care, the forecast is for continued growth in this lucrative niche market.
With greater than 38 percent of U.S. households owning dogs and more than a quarter of American households owning cats, the desire for pet owners to provide quality care for their pets in their absence is a wide and growing market. During the pandemic, people stayed at home with their pets, but now that they are beginning to return to the workplace and travel again for both pleasure and business, they’ll need pet resort services soon. If you like animals, this may be a good time to explore owning this type of business.
Not familiar with pet resorts? They come in many flavors, but at the core, they are places for pets to stay and be cared for while their owners are away. Like hotels or resorts for people, these come in all levels of services and quality. Some are simply clean, safe places for pet owners to board their pets, while others offer a variety of extra services (think “high-end spa”). While the most common clientele for pet resorts are dogs and cats, some will also provide daycare and/or board other small animals. Over 90%+ of pet resorts offer all services: lodging, daycare, enrichment activities, grooming and some training. That is what sets a ‘resort’ apart from a ‘kennel’ that is mainly overnight boarding. When boarding, pets are typically staying a couple of nights to a couple of weeks at a pet resort, but some offer more extended stays of up to a few months. Understanding what is appropriate for your market will take a little research.
As pet owners are becoming more tech-savvy, some trends in the pet boarding and resort industry are setting businesses apart from the crowd. For example, with online reservations, pet owners are able to log in to see availability and schedule their pet’s stay 24 hours a day. This is a perk that many busy pet owners highly value. They also love resorts that capture and stream video footage, allowing owners to check in on their pets at anytime from anywhere. These are beloved members of the owner’s family and they want to be able to confirm they are well.
Other extras that help a pet resort stand apart from others, as well as increase profitability, includes offering services that set them apart: activities that are customized for each pet; pick up/drop off service for busy pet owners; and upholstered furnishings that help pets feel at home in their vacation accommodations. Pet grooming, “paw-dicures” (pet pedicures and nail trims), and similar spa services add value for the customer who is looking to simplify their busy lives. It’s also an additional revenue stream for you.
Buying or starting a business requires a plan. But before you start to put your business plan together, ask yourself – is a pet resort right for you? Maybe or maybe not. To help you assess, begin with the most obvious question – do you like animals? As a pet resort owner you would be providing care for many different sizes, types, and temperaments of animals. Is this something that you are comfortable with?
One of the most challenging aspects for any business owner is the hiring and managing of staff. Your staff can make or break your business. One of the main reasons owners give for selling their pet resort is the unanticipated challenges of staff management. As in any retail or service business, work ethic, skills and customer service are important. When you add in the complexity of taking responsibility for the care of customers’ furry family members, it becomes even more important to hire, train and provide appropriate guidance for the right individuals.
Pets’ behavior can also be a challenge. Someone’s little sweetie may actually be a little hellion around other people and/or animals. Planning ahead by setting clear expectations for owners and training your team on best practices for managing “guests” are good first steps. Learning how to troubleshoot and deal with some of the more commonly encountered issues can help keep staff, pets and their families safe.
While you don’t have to be a veterinarian or need specialized degrees for the care and keeping of animals, you and your team will be responsible for living beings. Experience with pet care is important. You and your staff may need training in pet first aid and you’ll want a relationship with a veterinary clinic or hospital, just in case of emergency. Additionally, many pets will come to you with prescription regimens that you’ll have to administer, so comfort and ease with providing that care is also valuable.
Finally, strong customer service skills to promote loyalty with your pet owners and encourage them to return. Knowing they can trust their pets are receiving the best care in their absence is of utmost importance to keep them coming back – and recommending your business to their friends and neighbors.
As usual, you’ll want to build a business plan and do your market analysis before opening a new business. If a pet resort sounds like a fit for you, put together a plan with your trusted advisors. Who knows, you may soon have the hottest resort for the furry set in your area.