Demand for pet-friendly travel, growing facilities amid pandemic

June 13, 2022

TOKYO — A growing number of tourists are beginning to travel with their animal companions as more people have decided to get a pet after spending long hours at home amid the pandemic. There is also a growing movement to increase the number of services that cater to dogs, such as lodging facilities where visitors can enjoy meals and hot springs with their beloved pets.

On May 16, guests of Pet & Spa Hotel Nasu Wan in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture dined at the hotel restaurant with their dogs. The pet-friendly hotel has 14 rooms and includes indoor and outdoor dog parks. You can also enjoy natural hot springs with your dogs if they book a private bath.

The hotel recorded its highest sales in fiscal 2021, up 24% from pre-pandemic fiscal 2019, since it opened in 2011.

“I’m glad employees think of dogs first,” said a 33-year-old woman from Saitama Prefecture.

In 2014, companies in the tourism sector in the Nasu region launched the Wanko Net Nasu association. He created a map showing the more than 60 restaurants and recreational facilities where people could go with their dogs or cats.

“We want to promote Nasu as a pet-friendly tourist destination,” association president Koichi Morimura said.

According to a 2020 survey by the Japan Pet Food Association in Tokyo, the number of newly acquired pet dogs increased by 18% from the previous year to around 416,000, and the number of these pet cats increased. increased by 16% to approximately 460,000.

The number of pet dogs and cats is estimated to be over 16 million nationwide in 2021.

As demand from foreign tourists has plummeted, a growing number of facilities are working to attract visitors with pets.

Petyado.com, which introduces pet-friendly lodging establishments, has added 30 to 50 each year since 2018. The site now lists more than 800 establishments.

“Recently, more of these [pet-friendly] locations are popping up in the Kansai region, including Awaji Island and near Lake Biwa,” said Uichiro Fujino, president of Grand Paw, the company that runs the website.

The railway companies are also interested in it. On May 21, a subsidiary of East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) and other companies staged a protest, which moved people from Ueno Station in Tokyo to Karuizawa Station in the prefecture. from Nagano on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line with their dogs.

Although pets are generally not allowed out of their cages on Shinkansen trains, passengers were able to enjoy the journey with their furry friends on their knees.

“The market for pet-friendly travel services is expected to rise with increased demand,” said Professor Katsuhiko Shoji of Toyo University, who studies pet-friendly tourism. “Those who provide these services need to acquire the knowledge necessary to care for pets well and improve the quality of their services.”

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