Yorkshire is about to become a dog's best friend as the county's latest super-comfy hotel unveils plans to open the UK's first dedicated dog hotel and spa.
Raithwaite Hall in Sandsend, North Yorkshire, where £30 million has been spent on dolling up the stately pile, started taking human customers two weeks ago. It is now sorting out a 28-room 'dog hotel' with dedicated spa facilities including hydrotherapy pool, grooming, special food and the slightly ominous-sounding obedience classes. Presumably for those which get a bit carried away by all the fuss.
The suites will be in a separate building called The Keep, due to open next autumn, and essentially human rooms will include a special area for dogs to sleep in.
Paul Ellis, managing director of the northern England-based Skelwith Group, owners of the 80-acre Raithwaite Hall estate, says:
Dracula. Will he try to book in?
We've opened a fantastic hotel for humans and want to be able to offer the same guest experience to dogs too. When people are choosing hotels it is often easier to find venues that cater for their children than for their dog. Dogs are often a massive part of the family so we want to look after these travellers too.
Raithwaite is managed on behalf of Skelwith by the West Paces hotel group based in the US where dog holidays are part of the travel picture. The new Yorkshire outpost will be marketed heavily in the States in the hope of attracting visitors from an established clientele over there.
The market for dog holidays is relatively untapped in the UK as many places do not allow them to stay with their owners. That is changing but the potential for holidaymakers to take their dog on the family break could be a promising new source of income for hotelliers and guesthouse owners. Pets are a billion pound industry with pet food alone worth £1.8bn in Britain, without taking into account vet costs, toys and other pet-related paraphernalia.
The number of UK households with dogs has also overtaken cats for the first time in the last five years, with an estimated 8.3million dogs in the UK and almost a quarter of homeowners sharing their life with a dog in 2010 (22.9%: Source: Mintel for the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association). It is possible that dogs will outnumber cats in the UK for the first time during the course of 2011.
Raithwaite Hall was once the a shipping magnates's retreat and backs onto public footpaths which lead to the beach as well as inland towards the moors so there is plenty for dogs and their owners to explore. It's also only a short walk from Sandsend to Whitby, where in Bram Stoker's famous novel Dracula, the dodgy count first sets foot on English soil, disguised, appropriately, as a dog.