Tripadvisor's 2024 Pet Friendly Hotel Awards Are Completely Broken

Following an investigation into Tripadvisor's Pet Friendly Awards, we discovered that they are completely broken, and unfit for their purpose.

Tripadvisor's 2024 Pet Friendly Hotel Awards Are Completely Broken
Tripadvisors 2024 Pet Friendly Hotel Awards Are Broken

I verify dog friendliness for a living, and by that, I mean I speak to hundreds of hotels every month to certify their dog friendly policies, services, amenities, facilities, and ancillaries as dog friendly. I do this because Tripadvisor, and online travel agents in general, have no idea what the words 'dog friendly' mean.

They think any hotel that declares itself dog friendly is one, and the problem with that is that behind the words 'dog friendly' hides a multitude of sins.

Tripadvisor has no idea because it has no standardized evaluation process to gauge a hotel's dog friendliness, and it has no data-driven benchmark to use as a basis for comparison with other hotels based on the same criteria.

Because of this, dog owners never know if a hotel is good or bad until after they have checked in, and by then it's too late to pick a different hotel.

Mars CEO Poul Weihrauch says this is a huge problem because “33% of pet parents have altered their plans because it’s difficult to travel with pets.”

Then I noticed that Mars had announced a new partnership with Tripadvisor to “improve the experience of traveling with pets", and as part of this initiative, they announced a new Tripadvisor Pet-Friendly Hotel Awards category for 2024, awarding “Best Of The Best” status to the top 25 pet-friendly hotels in the US.

Tripadvisors New Consumer Hub

"At Mars, we’re collaborating with innovators like Tripadvisor to transform the pet parent travel experience,” said Natalia Ball, Global Chief Growth Officer at Mars.

Naturally, this triggered me.

I know that Tripadvisor doesn't have a clue when it comes to dog friendly hotels. Not only do they not have the data, they have never bothered to check if their hotels really are dog friendly. Booking a dog-friendly hotel through Tripadvisor (or any OTA) is always a gamble because you never know what you might get. 

The worst case scenario is that you will be denied a room because your dog weighs too much, or because they only have a few dog friendly rooms which are already occupied. Most of the time you are charged a canine tax masquerading as a ‘cleaning fee’ while receiving very few services or amenities in return.

So I called up all of Tripadvisor’s award-winning pet-friendly hotels to find out exactly how dog friendly they really were, which is how I discovered that their Best Of The Best Pet Friendly Hotel Awards system was completely broken.

I created the world's first dog-friendly certification process for hotels to solve this problem, I wanted to be able to find good hotels while avoiding the bad ones, something that is almost impossible to do when everyone is ‘dog friendly’.

Measuring a hotel's dog-friendliness to determine if one is better than another requires a systematic process for evaluating the hotel's policies, services, amenities, facilities, and ancillary offerings against a data-driven benchmark.

Without this process, enough data, or a real benchmark, a comparison of dog friendly hotels is simply a popularity contest that can be won with money.

This makes me naturally suspicious of any 'best dog friendly hotel award' because, in my experience, they tend to be nothing more than marketing stunts that consistently fail to connect dog owners with the world's best dog friendly hotels.

Let's dig down into the details of this one.

The Best Pet Friendly Hotels According To Tripadvisor

1st Place - The Hyatt Centric Las Olas

Inexplicably, they have the Hyatt Centric Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale listed in the number one spot, but when I certified them they scored a miserable 10 points out of a possible total of 52, giving them a C rank. Hotels like this are why I am adding a new D rank to my certification, they make the rest of the C rank hotels look bad.

Canine inclusivity is almost non-existent at this hotel. They told me that dogs are not allowed in the bar, restaurant, or anywhere apart from the lobby, lift, and your room. They also do not provide any of the amenities you would expect, like a dog bed, food or water bowls, or dog food, forcing you to travel with it all.

They charge a $75 per stay, but you get free poop bags.

The best you can say about this hotel is that it is dog-tolerant, but Tripadvisor must be out of their minds if they think this is the "Best Of The Best".

2nd Place - The Shore Hotel in Santa Monica

The Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, California, holds the number two spot on Tripadvisor, but when I certified them it, I noticed that it did better than the Hyatt, and scored 12 points out of 52. This is another contender for my new D rank.

Canine inclusivity is non-existent at this hotel; dogs are not allowed in the hotel's bar, restaurant, or public areas—only the lobby, the lift, and your room. This hotel charges you a canine tax of $150 per stay but provides no dog beds, food or water bowls, dog food, or even free treats in return. They mildly redeem themselves with no weight restrictions, but ruin it by offering absolutely no services, or amenities.

Again, the best you can say about this hotel is that they are dog tolerant.

3rd Place - The Celebration Suites In Orlando.

The Celebration Suites in Orlando outranks the number one and two hotels on the Tripadvisor list, but not by a long way, scoring just 19 points out of 52, giving them a B rank. This is what I would consider to be below average, especially because they have a 35 pound weight limit, which excludes everything but lap dogs. 

They do not provide beds, bowls, or food, but they do let dogs in their bar, and in their public areas; they also have their own garden your dog can use. Their canine tax is $40 per night ($280 per week) but you can use the bar and garden in return.

This is nowhere near good enough to be considered a top three dog friendly hotel.

The rest of their Best Of The Best list is mostly more of the same, a complete joke, with just a couple of hotels in their list scoring enough points to earn our A rank.

All this exercise really does for Tripadvisor is demonstrate that they do not have a clue about what makes a really good friendly hotel. They are sending the suckers who fall for their shtick to some really bad dog friendly hotels.

The Best Dog Friendly Hotels Ranked By Roch

After Tripadvisor put you through that awful mediocrity, the least I can do is point you toward what I think are three good examples of real dog friendly hotels in America. Let's examine their dog-friendly services, amenities, facilities, policies, inclusivity, and canine taxes to see how they differ from Tripadvisors.

Please compare the three examples below closely to the three examples above. I ranked and certified the examples below using the Roch Standard.

1st Place - The Intercontinental with an A+ Rank for Dog Friendliness

The Intercontinental in Miami is the number one ranked dog friendly hotel on earth right now (June 2024), and their dog friendliness shines bright like a diamond.  Canine inclusivity is world-class, dogs are welcome in their bar, terrace, public areas, and even the garden, and they have no weight or size limits.

They scored 43 points out of 52 giving them a solid A+ rank.

They provide everything, from beds to bowls to treats to organic dog food. They can arrange dog walking and dog sitting services. They have a vet on call in case of medical emergencies and insurance coverage for canine guests.

It gets better, they work hard to nurture a local, dog friendly, community atmosphere with their Wednesday Paws weekly event, featuring market stalls from local vendors, doggy paddling pools, doggy cooler fountains, and a bar where you can meet locals from the surrounding area and their dogs. They do this weekly and are also the preferred spot of every local dog owner group in the area.

But wait, it gets better! They donate a percentage of their profits to local canine charities, and inspire canine fashion with their own custom doggy bandanas.

This is what dog friendly excellence looks like, but they charge $100 per stay.

2nd Place  - The Limelight Hotel with an A Rank For Dog Friendliness

The Limelight Hotel in Aspen scored 37 points out of 52, giving it a solid A rank. It is what we would consider to be top-tier in terms of canine inclusivity. Dogs are welcome throughout the hotel, including the bar and restaurant, and there are no size restrictions, meaning all breeds and sizes of dog are welcome. 

They provide essential items like dog beds and bowls, they arrange dog-walking and sitting services, and they have a vet on call in case of medical emergencies ensuring your pet's needs are well taken care of. Their staff are all hired to be dog friendly, and trained to deal with canine guests, and they even organize free canine photoshoots with your dog to make your stay a memorable experience.

This is what a great dog friendly hotel looks like, but they charge $100 per stay.

3rd Place - Dina’s Garden Hotel with a B+ Rank for Dog Friendliness

Dina’s Garden Hotel in Palo Alto scored 25 points out of 52, giving them a solid B+ rank. Dina believes in canine inclusivity, welcoming dogs in all public areas, including the bar, restaurant, terrace, and garden, with no size restrictions all dog breeds are welcome, making it a great place for dog owners to stay. 

They have a dedicated outdoor space for dogs, they provide bowls, they sell dog food, and they have specific business insurance coverage for canine guests.

This is what a good dog friendly hotel looks like, dogs stay at Dina’s for free!

Hopefully by now you can see the absurdity of the situation, and how the Tripadvisors Best Of The Best Pet-Friendly Awards are unfit for purpose.

The Absurdity of This Situation 

The idea that both Mars and Tripadvisor are standing behind their list as they declare that they want to “improve the experience of traveling with pets” is absurd. Neither of them has bothered to check any of the details underpinning their claims. The least they could do is point you in the direction of some really good dog friendly hotels, but they completely failed to do even that most basic thing.

Neither of them does anything to address the screaming need dog owners have to find a good, or excellent dog-friendly hotel while avoiding the bad ones. They aren’t taking the time to check, verify, and confirm their hotel's dog friendliness.

The absurdity of this situation undermines their credibility and their efforts.

They send dog owners to 2* hotels while claiming they are 5* hotels, and they are getting away with it because the words pet friendly don't mean anything.

You Can’t Trust The Words Pet Friendly

When Tripadvisor or any other online travel agent tells you that a hotel is pet-friendly, the fact that they even use the term betrays their ignorance. Most hotels will not let you stay in a room with a cat, a rat, a parrot, or a snake. People and families don’t usually travel with their pets; they travel with their dogs.

When they say pet friendly, they mean to say dog friendly. 

In Tripadvisor's case, they didn't bother to verify the words even though they partnered with Mars, who probably paid them to do so. To be fair, the same can be said of any other online travel agent and many of the large hotel chains. 

To them, all their dog-friendly hotels are good, even when they are not.

But in a world where everyone is dog friendly, no one is dog friendly.

Unless a dog friendly hotel has been properly certified through a comprehensive process covering its policies, services, amenities, facilities, and ancillaries, you can never really know exactly how dog friendly a hotel is until you check in.

Tripadvisor's 'Best Of The Best' Pet Friendly Hotels list insults good dog-friendly hotels everywhere, and no one seems willing to call them out on it because Mars and Tripadvisor are two of the largest players in the dog friendly space.

I have been told that I am "picking a fight with the Death Star".

But I believe dog owners deserve better from the hospitality industry.

What do you think?