Wagging away your pre-flight jitters

Hotels, take note, as this trend will have the most paws-itive influence with your guest-arrival goals.

Universities are using dogs and donkeys to soothe student stress levels during finals, and hospitals are incorporating llamas to comfort patients. Now airports are getting in on the stress- and anxiety-reducing trend, which far exceeds the use of traditional therapy dogs!

Before I disclose the “what’s next” for this trend, the first airport therapy dog program actually began in California at the San Jose Airport the day after 9/11, and several airports soon followed suit. New airport-friendly pet programs launched in 2017 were spotted at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Punta Gorda Airport, Rochester International Airport, Bradley International Airport and Norwest Arkansas Regional Airport. And with their significant surge of popularity among travelers, the trend is expected to experience another boost in 2018.

Airport therapy dogs are easy to spot and differentiate from the dogs used for security as they usually wear red “Pet Me” vests alerting travelers they can be approached and touched. However, as popular as the dogs have become, some airports are fast-forwarding with a touch of the unexpected by using non-canines in airports around the world — such as ponies. At the Munich Airport, reindeer are being used during the holiday season – an ideal method to cross-promote the airport’s popular Christmas market, giving passengers an opportunity to take in a photo op or shop prior to heading to their gate.

My personal favorite is LiLou, a spotted Juliana pig who turned 2 on December 15 and has her own Instagram account @lilou_sfpig.

The newest member of San Francisco’s International Airport Wag Brigade, LiLou is the first pig to be certified in the Animal Assisted Therapy Program of San Francisco’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And with a wardrobe that would cause envy with any of the Kardashians, LiLou performs a variety of tricks greeting people with her snout, a wave or playing piano, which includes a post-performance bow!  

With pet-friendly programs being one of the fastest-growing offerings for hotels, I hope I’ve stimulated some potential expansion thoughts for your own needs.

Until next time, hope you had a happy howl-iday!