During the pandemic, many restaurants and lodgings have developed the concept of pet-friendly spaces, and the acceptance of pets has brought them more visitors and friendlier atmospheres.
Sylvia Bedrosian, president and founder of Pet Friendly Puerto Rico, said this “business model is being effective and positive because it increases customer traffic. Restaurants and hotels are welcoming pets.”
According to Bedrosian, more than 700 businesses that accept their customers’ pets are registered on her website—dedicated to promoting a culture that integrates pets into public and private entertainment venues, and 50 percent of this total are food establishments such as restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and food trucks.
The concept is to allocate spaces so that pets can accompany customers who arrive at restaurants–on terraces or outdoor places–while enjoying their food and without interfering with diners who prefer not to interact with animals.
“You have to educate both the customer and the restaurant. We always tell them to be sensible and not to take their dog if he’s not ready to go out to these places, so they don’t ruin other people’s experience. Businesses always have the right of admission if a puppy is not behaving or anxious. These spaces are usually separate and have a pet capacity limit,” Bedrosian said. “The places that accept pets are booming and we want to help the restaurant industry with this business model because it was the first to support us and it has suffered a severe blow with the pandemic.”
Lodgings and Pets
Some “paradores,” or small inns, of the island also welcomed pets in their spaces. Jesús Ramos, president of the Association of Parador Owners, highlighted that at Villas de Sotomayor in Adjuntas, many families arrive with their dogs or cats. “About 30 percent of our booked rooms are guests with their animals. That kind of client has gone up a lot, also because we have a camping area. We even have cages that customers who come with their horses can use. We are thinking of doing the same for puppies, having a specific area to host them.”
Other small inns such as El Faro in Aguadilla, Mauna Caribe in Maunabo and Combate Beach Resort receive service dogs, while the Buen Café in Hatillo and Boquemar in Cabo Rojo have rooms assigned for guests who book with their pets.
A lodging that has been distinguished in the metropolitan area by its pet-friendly program is the Verdanza Hotel, which includes accepting animals, grooming services—provided by a nearby establishment—and a dog park.
“We are renewing the program for our dog customers, because people are doing internal tourism with their pets. These customers have increased quite a bit. We have a Paws Park… so you can drop dogs into a playground with obstacles. They are allowed in the common areas and on the terrace,” said Adamabel Rivera, Sales director at Verdanza Hotel.
Guests who arrive with pets are given rooms near the pool area. “We put them in that area because those rooms do not have carpets, but if these rooms are full, they can be accommodated in the main tower. There is an additional cost per stay, and we receive dogs up to 55 pounds. That we are pet friendly brings us customers. People already know that we accept them and the first thing many foreign tourists ask is if we accept their pets,” Rivera said.
In the case of Condado Ocean Club Hotel, reservations for people with pets is a regular occurrence. “We haven’t seen an increase in pandemic-related travelers, but we have guests traveling with their pets, almost always leisure travelers and mostly from outside Puerto Rico. We offer beds, dishes and toys for the pet-guest. We like to keep the maximum of four pets hosted at once. There are recreational areas near the hotel that lend themselves to guests walking their pets, and they are allowed in the outdoor areas,” said Betsy Mujica, the hotel’s director of Sales and Marketing.