More and more people are traveling with their pets these days, and businesses are taking notice. Pet-friendly business practices are popping up all over - from banks that open their doors to both pets and people, to restaurants with special doggie menus, to pet-friendly hotels that offer canine guests a specially crafted welcome basket.
When businesses consider the demographics of those who might be traveling with pets, they should take care to keep a significant group in mind: seniors.
According to the Federal Census Bureau, in 2012 there were 43 million seniors living in the U.S. That number is expected to double by 2050.
Sixty-two percent of households in the U.S. had at least one pet in 2012. While there aren't specific statistics available on how many of those households are comprised of seniors, it's safe to say that a healthy number of seniors do have one or more pets.
With no children left to care for at home, seniors often treat their pets as surrogate children, pampering them, doting on them, and bringing them along as pet travel companions.
Because seniors are often retired with grown children, many tend to have extra time on their hands. This means they can take lengthier trips and travel farther than those who are committed to work schedules or tending to the needs of growing families.
With no children in the home to support and fewer living expenses, many seniors have extra money to spend on hobbies and other activities, including leisure travel. They're also willing to spend money indulging their favorite four-legged companions.
These factors make seniors an important and often under served potential client base for pet-friendly businesses.
There are a number of things businesses can do to earn the patronage and loyalty of seniors, including:
Stores, hotels and restaurants can create pet-centric loyalty programs that encourage repeat business. Pet stores can offer seniors progressive discounts, reward cards, or drawings for prizes or merchandise. Hotels can offer free nights for multiple visits with pets. And restaurants can promote a free appetizer and free doggie treats to seniors who bring their pets.
Hotel discounts (or waived hotel pet fees) for seniors, senior discounts on pet merchandise, and meal discounts for seniors who visit restaurants with their pets are all excellent ways for businesses to build loyalty among older patrons.
Reaching out to other pet-friendly or pet-centric businesses to form partnerships - a hotel partnering with a doggie spa to offer discounts and added amenities, for example - can be win-win for everyone. Seniors can have access to more products and services at better prices, while both businesses receive more exposure and the opportunity to build loyalty among senior customers.
With more Baby Boomers reaching senior status all the time, and more people in general traveling with and catering to their pets, there are plenty of opportunities for businesses to serve the valuable, and sometimes overlooked senior demographic. They just have to find creative ways to roll out the welcome wagon.
TripsWithPets.com is an online resource for pet travel. Named best pet travel site by Consumer Reports, TripsWithPets.com's mission is to offer resources that ensure pets are welcome, happy and safe while traveling. The website features a directory of pet-friendly hotels and accommodations across the U.S. and Canada, as well as airline and car rental pet policies; pet-friendly restaurants, beaches and events; a user-friendly route search option;pet travel tips; pet travel supplies; and other pet travel resources.
Author Kim Salerno is the president and founder of TripsWithPets.com. She founded the pet travel site in 2003 and is an expert in the field of pet travel. Her mission is to ensure pets are welcome, happy and safe in their travels.