Furry, four-legged pals, this way please

Updated: 2012-08-16 09:23

By Eric Jou (China Daily)

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Furry, four-legged pals, this way please

A guest enjoys staying at Aloft Beijing with his pet dog. Wei Xiaohao / China Daily

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As a dog owner living in China, I've always found it terribly difficult to leave my dog at home while I travel for either business or pleasure. Do I leave my best mate, Major Pooper, in a kennel, or with a friend? Never had I imagined that I could find a hotel that actually caters to both my own needs and allows me to bring my best friend with me, until I heard about Aloft Beijing.

Located in the Haidian district, Aloft is situated in a location that isn't intuitive for a hotel of its caliber, it feels more like an East Side joint than a West Side place. As part of the Starwood Hotel group, Aloft Beijing is right next to the Four Points Sheraton.

Aloft, from the outside, feels very much like a middle-range hotel. But once I walk into the lobby with my dog, it is clear that Aloft is different. The employees are warm and receptive to my furry friend instead of scared or apologetic.

The warmth of the employees toward Major Pooper is all part of Aloft's most unique feature, the ARF program. ARF stands for Animals aRe Fun and it is Aloft's motto to be hospitable to both man and beast.

According to Aloft Beijing's managing director Zhang Lei, Aloft's ARF program came from surveys of what hotel guests want and many guests, it seems, want to bring their pets along with them when they travel.

"Before, many people didn't really treat animals as part of the family, but now cats and dogs are becoming direct members of the family," Zhang says. "This is a lifestyle, and this is something that we want to bring to China."

The ARF program does a bit more than just allowing dogs inside the hotel. It also provides certain in-room amenities. All rooms that accommodate dogs come with a doggie bed, doggie bowl, a bio-bag for accidents and a "woofilicious" treat. Unfortunately for Major Pooper, there is only one treat.

Zhang says that even though the hotel's rooms are carpeted, every room that has accommodated a pet is thoroughly cleaned to make sure it's suitable for future guests.

During my stay, Major Pooper was the only dog in the hotel but Zhang and other hotel employees speak fondly of former guests. Zhang says that there is an increasing number of Chinese who travel with their dogs, something she says wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago.

"China was a very poor country. When I was young, we had to use coupons for food and oil, and everything was very limited, so how could we provide for animals when we couldn't provide for ourselves?" Zhang says.

"In the last 20 years, China has developed so fast and now more people realize that animals are part of their lives and economically, they can afford to have pets. These pets are now becoming part of the family," she adds.

Guests who do check into Aloft with a pet should notify the hotel beforehand that they will be doing so, so that the hotel can prepare treats and toys for the room. On top of that, a valid dog license is required.

According to Zhang, because of Chinese regulations, Aloft cannot accommodate dogs over 30 kg.