The next time you fly to Jacksonville, Florida, there's a terrific resort you really ought to check out. It's an exclusive, all-suite hotel, and each guest room opens onto a private outdoor patio overlooking a custom-designed swimming pool. Guests may enjoy exercise facilities, meeting areas and an all-inclusive menu featuring nutritional foods. The resort's on-site airport location makes it ideally convenient.
The catch? You'd better be on four legs. This is a hotel for dogs and cats. Pet Paradise has been operating at Jacksonville International Airport for three years. The upscale boarding kennel--the pool is shaped like a bone--has been so popular that the company is expanding its Jacksonville facility. It also is moving into other airports, including a facility at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans and one opening early next year at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
Pet boarding is now a $4 billion industry in America, and airports figure that's money worth pursuing. Airports in San Diego, Portland and Seattle have recently opened swanky digs for boarding your pet. And the Minneapolis Airports Commission recently announced that it is seeking one of these businesses as well. Pet resorts offer airports a new source of revenue, as well as a retail offering that's different from Cinnabon and Wilsons Leather stores. These are no chain-link kennels. With amenities such as spacious individual suites, piped-in music, specialty bedding, gourmet treats and a Web cam link for animal owners, these hotels are definitely fit for Fideaux.
Whatever you think of the latest wave of tony boarding facilities, locating them right at the airport makes a lot of sense. Travelers need to board their animals somewhere. "People love their pets and want them to be well taken care of," says Chuck Cannon, a spokesman for Denver International Airport, which has been soliciting bids from pet-hotel companies. Denver's plans call for a "first class" pet resort that could handle a minimum of 100 dogs and 100 cats. It also would include play areas, grooming services and medical care.
As with other private businesses at airports, pet hotels pay rent and the airports also collect a percentage of the profits. At Pet Paradise, rates for dogs start at $30 a day, with higher fares for extra amenities such as one-on-one playtime with a trainer or special ice cream treats. "We see it as a pretty good source of revenue," Cannon says. "It's also important for us to seek out non-airline sources of revenue. The less money we have to charge our airlines, the better it is for them and, ultimately, for us."
For dog and cat owners, there's one big advantage, aside from the convenience of being able to drop off their pets on the way to the Departures gate. These facilities are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Travelers leaving on an early-morning flight don't have to worry about dropping Rex off the night before. And passengers who get home at 10:30 on a Saturday night don't have to wait until the next morning--or until Monday--to pick up Tabby. "Most of us pet lovers want to get our pets as soon as we can when we land," says Fred Goldsmith, the CEO of Pet Paradise. That convenience, plus all of the luxury amenities offered at these resorts, lets pet owners travel easy. "What we really provide the owner with is the peace of mind that their pets are having a good time."