| Inside A Wag Hotel
By George McConnell Aug 14, 2007
When the history of Wag Hotels is written, it will be noted that a bulldog named Zoebee played a pivotal role. That’s the way, Ritu Raj, her owner tells it, anyway. He’s the Founder and CEO of Wag Hotels, a chain of luxury pet boarding hotels that opened in San Francisco recently.
“My dog is my best friend and she loves me unconditionally. I would never leave Zoebee in a kennel, never, so I created Wag Hotels,” he said.
San Francisco is their second location. The first Wag opened in Sacramento in 2004, and it has been a smashing success.
“Sacramento has been really good to us,” said Raj. He believes the Wag here and the one slated to open soon in Sunnyvale will prove successful. Thus far, his projections are right on target.
“We have 28 employees in San Francisco already, and we are planning to add more,” he said.
In the Bay Area, we want to open a third location in Oakland, and beginning this year, we expect to open around 20 pet resorts a year, he added.
The goal of Wag Hotels is to exceed the lifestyle expectations of the urban pet and their owners by offering unparalleled convenience and innovative amenities, according to Raj.
Their three-story facility here located at the corner of 14th and Harrison Street totals 35,000 square feet – the size of eight basketball courts. Inside, down gleaming, colorful hallways suggestive of a fine hotel,
are 239 rooms and suites, a swimming pool, and a restaurant-style kitchen where guest’s meals, which include an organic option, are prepared.
Raj had been an executive in the information services industry for over 20 years, but he was burned out, he said. When he observed how much nicer people were when they were around their pets, he decided to jump ship.
“When people bring their dog and cat in, they are completely different, really nice. They show heart and humanity. It’s so incredibly rewarding,” he said.
There are 73 million canines living in 43 million homes in the United States, and this translates into big business. Nationwide, pet owners spend about $35.9 billion a year on their pets, and another $2.4 billion a year to board and groom their pets, according to American Pet Products Association, Inc (APPA).
But the days of mom-and-pop pet boarding businesses are numbered. There’s almost no such thing as a kennel anymore, say industry analysts. Over the last few years, the trend has been toward large upscale facilities operated by national chains that offer more amenities.
The first luxury spa for dogs opened in Alexandria Va six years ago, complete with heated floors, TVs with VCRs, fluffy pillows, masseuses, and personal walkers. They were immediately swamped with requests, according to APPA.
PetsHotel, which has 25 locations and plans another 300, offers TVs, pet phone booths where dogs take calls from their owners, and soft-serve ice cream formulated for dogs. They claim to be nearly booked through Christmas.
A check of the San Francisco telephone yellow pages of local pet boarding companies reveals facilities and amenities similar to those offered by Wag Hotels.
Besides basic boarding, which includes two room service-style meals a day, a comfortable bed, and twice-daily playgroups (if your dog is deemed the sociable type), Wag offers an a la carte menu of other amenities, such as larger rooms, supervised swimming, private “business walks” on the 10,000 square foot rooftop lawn, and spa services, which include grooming, massage, and blueberry facial scrubs.
“It makes their face nice and soft, and it doesn’t leave a stain. The dogs really like it,” Raj said.
Larger rooms come in two sizes, and then there are the 8’x 10’ luxury suites – which total 72 - that include plush raised bedding, artwork, a flat-screen TV that displays doggie-themed cartoons and Animal Planet programming, and a web cam that gives owners the ability to check up on their loved ones anywhere in the world.
For feline guests, Wag offers The Cattery, a large room with 20 multi-level “condos”, each with its own private bathroom, fluffy beds, room service meals, and a view of a 200-gallon aquarium. For an additional charge, you can treat your cat to extra pampering with a “Kitty Cuddle” session.
“Your pet is treated like a star from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. The average stay is 4 nights, and we’ve had over 35,000 dog nights thus far,” said Raj.
For more information on Wag Hotels, call 1-888-WAG-LINE or visit www.waghotels.com.
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