On the road: Cool dogs and curious cats

More hotels in China are recognising the potential of the pet travel market and are offering pet-friendly accommodations.


Pet owner Wei Ren (left), 29, takes his dachshund along for a short trip to rural areas in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

May 3, 2023

BEIJING – Young urban Chinese are increasingly traveling with their pets for leisure, Xu Lin reports.

Wei Ren, 29, regularly takes his dachshund along for excursions to rural areas in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. He has also joined a WeChat group of local dachshund owners and frequently attends gathering with them.

“Dogs enjoy the vast fields and clear rivers in the countryside and need to socialize with other dogs as well. It feels very different to walk the dog in such a place with good ecology compared with the big city,” says Wei, who works in a commercial real estate consulting company.

He says he notices that the dachshunds have various personalities — while some are extroverts and make more friends, such as his dog, others are introverted.

“As pet owners, we like to talk about our dog-raising experiences. It’s interesting to hear people share their different life stories as well, and it has expanded my social circle,” he says.

He stays overnight at a campsite and sometimes lives in a rural minsu (Chinese-style bed-and-breakfast establishment), where the room is decorated with pet patterns and equipped with a small doghouse.

According to the 2021 China Pet Industry White Paper, the number of people raising cats and dogs in urban areas across the country reached 68.44 million that year, an increase of 8.7 percent from 2020.

More young Chinese are traveling with their pets, and while there are restrictions on keeping dogs as pets or traveling with them in urban areas, they choose to enjoy themselves in places that are more accommodating to both humans and pets.

Ran Minlu, 28, once took her Shiba Inu to Aranya, a popular coastal resort in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, about four hours by road from Beijing. The community’s pet-friendliness has attracted many pet owners, with many hotels, minsu and restaurants welcoming pets.

“My dog was able to enjoy the sunshine, beach and sea breeze, and we bumped into various breeds of dogs on the seaside. Also, some pet hotels regularly organize dog-related activities for their guests,” she says. “When you see your pet playing happily, you will also feel happy during the trip.”

She says she believes that taking care of one’s pet is like looking after a child, and it needs patience. She emphasizes the importance of ensuring the safety of both owners and pets and suggests not letting dogs off the leash in public places to avoid accidents.

While it’s more common to travel with a dog on a road trip, some young Chinese prefer to take their cats along.

Last year, Ti Yujie, 32, moved from Beijing to Chengdu, Sichuan province, with six cats in his car, and started a 35-day adventure. “My prime aim was to move house. But an idea suddenly struck me. Why not travel along the route with my felines?

“I knew there would be many challenges, but I was excited to embrace the uncertainty and have a new travel experience,” he says.

He folded down the back seat of his SUV and adjusted the space to make it comfortable for his cats to rest. Besides food and water, he put several litter boxes in the trunk to ensure their comfort during long drives. Together, they explored the desert, the grassland, and even less populated areas, and rested beside a river while watching cattle drink from it.

“It’s essential to prevent stress among cats. Domestic cats are timid but curious creatures. Sometimes my cats want to pop their heads when I open the car door, and sometimes hide under the back seat,” he says.

Earlier, he noticed that one of his cats was the most suitable to travel with, because it was always eager to explore open spaces, and followed him closely. Some cats, however, might be too afraid to step out in the wild.

As his cats gradually became accustomed to the nomadic lifestyle, they would not roam too far from the car and always knew to return to it when necessary.

Two of Ti Yujie’s six cats rest in a desert. The 32-year-old man’s on his way moving from Beijing to Chengdu, Sichuan province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Market potential

More hotels and minsu are recognizing the potential of the pet travel market and are offering pet-friendly accommodations.

Chinese hotel chain Blossom House was among the first in the country to accept pets, when its first hotel was opened in Lijiang, Yunnan province, in 2010.

Among its 53 hotels on the Chinese mainland, over half are pet-friendly and some even have a large outdoor lawn for dogs to play on. Besides pet facilities in rooms, those who travel with their furry friends will get a check-in gift package for pets, such as wet swipes, toys and toilet bags.

“Many guests just need the opportunity to relax with their pets during a short getaway, especially on weekends. It’s not that necessary for them to visit a scenic area, where pets might not be allowed,” says Chen Pei-hsin, vice-president of Yonglehuazhu Co, which owns Blossom House.

She says those who travel with pets often visit a place they can drive to in less than four hours, and walk their dogs in the natural environment or go hiking.

The hotels of the chain also provide staff members training on how to interact with pets, first-aid for pets and special room-cleaning services.

“The repurchase rate of our guests with dogs is high, because they’re satisfied with the hotel’s pet-friendliness. Our staff members are fond of pets and treat them well and such details touch our guests,” she says.

Owned by Hotel group Marriott International, Element Beijing Yanqing advocates a healthy and green lifestyle, with pet-friendliness.

“Safety always comes first,” says Liu Gang, the hotel’s general manager.

Guests must show the immunization record of their pets and sign a commitment to use a dog leash in public and dispose dog waste in a proper manner. There will also be a sign on the door that reminds others that the room has a pet. It’s advised that those with dogs should keep a safe distance from the elderly and children in the hotel.

“Our guests have high quality and are aware of the do’s and don’ts,” he says.

According to him, the natural scenery of Yanqing district is suitable to enjoy with pets, especially the marshy grassland. He says people can walk their dogs on the zigzagging footpath along the beautiful Guishui River to embrace nature.

He shares a story from last year, when a young man and a woman — each owning a golden retriever — got to know each other when they stayed in the hotel and fell in love, and then sent wedding candies to the reception desk.

“China’s pet travel market is growing rapidly with a huge potential, driven by the increasing number of pet owners,” says Song Changyao, head of the tourism management department, Beijing International Studies University.

“Pets have become essential companions for many people, whether it’s the younger generations, who feel lonely due to excessive use of social media, or the elderly, who have less companionship because of urbanization.”

He says pet-friendly scenic areas, hotels and destinations should take into account animal welfare and behavioral characteristics of pets and provide services such as pet foods and products related to pet health and hygiene.

“Hotels need to handle the relationship between pet guests and other guests, such as safety, hygiene and noise, in order to ensure the quality of accommodation,” he says.

He points out that the rapid development of camping and caravan tourism following the COVID-19 pandemic has also boosted the growth of the pet travel market, with pets being important companions for camping and caravan self-driving trips.

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