A couple creates and operates websites for pet-friendly hotels and eateries in all 50 states
If you’re still making travel plans for the holidays or starting to think about vacations this coming spring and summer—and you can’t bear the thought of leaving your pup or other animal roomies in the care of others—you need to know about Tracey Thompson’s website, petfriendlytravel.com, which she started in 1999, and her husband Steve Schweitzer’s new spinoff site, petfriendlyrestaurants.com.
Each tells and shows you everything you need to know about hitting the road without breaking your heart. I wish I’d known during my combined 30 years of pet ownership how many places there were in all 50 states (and some in Canada) to not only stay in style but also to dine—albeit always alfresco—with my furry friends.
Throughout the 14 years I had a dog and later, the 15 years I had a cat, I also had a pet peeve: If I wanted or needed to hit the road or even go out to a leisurely dinner, I needed to leave them behind.
Because animals could teach us a few lessons about stoicism, I’m guessing they didn’t mind quite as much as I did. I used to think it was harder on my little dog Camellia because she’d see me head to the front door and wiggle her backside excitedly, thinking we were about to go for our fifth walk of the day.
On the other hand, many years later my cat Osborn the Magnificent, who died a few months ago, would exhibit more of a nuanced shrug upon my departure; but he was always at the front or back door waiting for me when I returned, sometimes wailing his disapproval of my recent absence. The last time I left him at home for more than a week, he actually jumped into my arms as I stumbled into the house, making me drop my suitcase. He was 19 at the time. Love didn’t let him live forever but it certainly kept him agile into his final year.
Thompson and Schweitzer, who live in Los Angeles not far from the fabled Hollywood sign, have been married since 1987. They were both in show business for many years. She was a TV development executive for the Steve Tisch company, producing TV movies (including those once-ubiquitous After-School Specials). He was a production manager for everything from movie premiers to conferences and concerts, even going on tour with the likes of (also once-ubiquitous) singer Johnny Mathis and actress Barbara Eden. Schweitzer, whom I’ve known for more than half a century, also ran the scene shop for L.A.’s Center Theatre Group, which meant he made sure that A-list actors performing at the iconic Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum weren’t left delivering their lines on bare stages.
petfriendlytravel.com is a listing service that everything from Airbnbs to major hotel groups subscribe to—meaning we won’t book you into that pet-friendly hotel, but when you come to our site you’ll be amazed at how many of them there are.”
At various times, petfriendlytravel.com has drawn thousands of daily hits and clicks, Thompson says. And while she says she’s glad to have chains like Best Western and Motel 6 as subscribers, like all entrepreneurs she’s also going after niche businesses—such as independent inns, mom-and-pop lodgings, vacation rentals and cabins.
An added benefit of her site is that it also provides data on “what happens after you check in. You don’t have to leave your pet in your room. You can find out what’s nearby and even things like weather warnings—anything that’s going to affect your stay.”
She tells me something that surprises me. “In this day and age, most hotels will let you stay with your pet. But some are better suited for it than others.” And what’s in it for the hotels is that they can charge you more for accommodating your pet.
Schweitzer says that as he’s building the couple’s petfriendlyrestaurants.com site he’s been discovering “a serious loyalty factor at work. If you went to a restaurant and they treated not only you but also your pet as a valued customer, you’d be likely to return there time and again. “It’s not always about the food you enjoy when you dine out,” Thompson adds.
After we end our chat, I realize I meant to ask Thompson one more question about sharing a hotel room with pets. Since most don’t have opposable thumbs, there’s probably no danger of them abusing the mini-bar or dialing up room service when you step into the shower. But how can you prevent your dog from eating that chocolate mint left on your pillow at night?
reprinted with the permission of Ed Goldman
Ed Goldman writes the thrice-weekly online column The Goldman State. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as a monthly columnist both for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books (Don’t Cry For Me, Ardent Reader; And Now, With Further Ado; But I Digress…), two plays and one musical (so far).