Behind every niche animal interest is an opportunity to specialise and differentiate… a range of prospects wrapped up in a love for animals. It’s as simple as getting some quirky, animal-themed amenities, a clever value-add to your basic offering, and partnering with local service providers. Package an experience that puts a wag in the animal lover’s tail, then you can take their loyalty and tourism spend to the bank.
How animals motivate tourism
Animals can evoke powerful emotions: curiosity about wild, exotic animals in faraway places; concern for endangered species and fear of not seeing them before they disappear; guilt about negative human impact on a species; urge to protect and conserve.
On a domestic note, pet lovers suffer genuine anxiety about leaving their fur babies at home and would rather travel with than without them.
They appreciate brands that provide opportunity for some animal interaction and actively seek out those kindred spirits. Think animals in residence, a mascot or pets to interact with, facilitated access to iconic indigenous animals, and amenities that welcome pet guests on-site.
They derive pleasure from contact with animals during travel.
Depending on the destination, some animal experiences are more obvious than others, like safaris, bird- and whale-watching. But some creative planning can set brands apart as niche experts within the animal tourism segment.
An entire trip can be built around something as niche as seasonal migration, with opportunities to watch, follow, photograph and learn about a particular animal. It may be possible to track an iconic species of your destination or volunteer at animal rescue centres and help with clean-up operations.. Enable your guests to contribute, physically or financially. They’ll want to celebrate conservation initiatives where animals have been rehabilitated or restored to natural habitats.
Save the rhino! Free the whale! Hands off hatching turtles! Far from being mere pop causes, these sorts of mission statements resonate with true animal lovers. They want to participate and express their passion through tourism.
Growing your animal travel niche
Wherever you’re based, some kind of animal will be associated with the destination – people will want to experience it. You share the responsibility of teaching and guiding visitors about the taboos and ethics around animal interaction and appreciation in your destination. Help provide authentic, controlled experiences, so that the moronic trend of selfies with wild animals goes extinct!
Animal tourism must be safe to be sustainable – safe for animals and safe for humans.
Aligning your brand with a good animal cause will earn you the reputation of a trusted brand they can endorse and refer. Without immediate access to animal experiences, you can still partner with specialist service providers in your vicinity. Off-site animal experiences can become exclusive products added onto your offering as activities, day tours or excursions for individuals, families or small groups. Provide the connection, the access, the information, and make it easier for travellers.
Pet lover’s best friend
You might not believe how many pet owners would travel with pets if they were allowed – they feel that strongly about their animals. Some would rather not travel without them. Some feel guilty leaving them at home. Some want shared experiences with their pets and for their pets to be comfortable during travel. Millennials take it further, choosing to be ‘pet parents’ in greater numbers and spending loads of money on their pets.
Millennials consider their pets as part of the family & purposefully seek out & support pet-friendly businesses.
The Caribbean Pet
An entire segment of disabled travellers need service animals while anxious travellers need animal companions for emotional support. There are airlines and train companies like Amtrak getting on-board with animal-friendly services. Some destinations, hotel groups and even cruise companies already market themselves as pet-friendly. With your support, this growing infrastructure can improve access to global destinations for this particular niche.
A recent survey of more than 1,100 travelers conducted by TripAdvisor found that 53% of respondents travel with their pets & 52% will only stay at pet-friendly properties.
Festivals and quirky events for animal/pet-lovers are held worldwide. Woofstock anyone? An annual dog festival needs dog-friendly accommodation to host visitors.. And enjoy the repeat business of happy guests and their pets.
How pet-friendly travel brands score
Decide what types of pets you’re prepared to host, based on housekeeping cost implications – at this stage, dogs and cats still rule the domestic realm, which is a safe place to start. Re-purpose part of your premises, make pet-relief areas easily accessible, stock special treats, etc.. Gardens or picnic areas can double as recreational space for guests to relax with their pets without imposing on pet-free guests. Provide pet-sitting, walking or pampering services (or outsource them). Focus less on the bed-only approach and more on the packaged convenience pet owners will happily pay extra for.
Today’s retailing opportunities for hoteliers include looking at underutilized spaces within a property, spaces that are non-monetized today..
According to Woof Advisor, ‘pet parents’ stay longer where their animals are welcomed and provided for. They’ll pay more for specialised value-adds. Bonus points for your business if they can easily view your pet-friendly rooms and amenities, and you provide a direct enquiry option.
We’ve all seen and heard of them: animals with Instagram accounts, their travel adventures documented for the world to enjoy and share. We’re not far from having animal influencers.. Animals are cute, ferocious, awe-inspiring and helpless – qualities easily translated onto photographs. Use this natural resource on your doorstep to market yourself as an animal-friendly brand with photos, videos, and other interactive media. Emotive imagery with the right kind of exposure can significantly boost your content views.
Follow this spoor to your share of the niche market:
🐾view your existing product from an animal lover’s perspective (or get some expert advice); then identify where and how to accommodate that interest
🐾draw on the animal lover’s emotion with persuasive imagery and info – make it visible
🐾create opportunities by incorporating relevant experiences into a packaged offering
🐾spread the word online, everywhere
And like a baby turtle hatching from its shell, pro-animal social sharing communities will emerge as brand advocates and your best source of referral business. A niche is born.