Pet lodging could spell bucks for Miami International Airport
By Jacquelyn Weiner
As the county aviation department's budget strains to stay afloat amid the mounting cost of Miami International Airport's North Terminal construction, county commissioners are getting creative in their search for new ways to make money for MIA.
To that end, a pet hotel at the airport may be designed, built and run by the county. Officials see it as a possible moneymaker and a convenience to passengers needing to board their pets before departing on a flight. The seaport may also be considered for a pet hotel.
"We need to look at new niches that haven't been looked at before," said Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, chair of the Airport and Tourism Committee, who is sponsoring the legislation. "Thinking out of the box is very important right now."
The Airport and Tourism Committee last week directed aviation staff to study Mr. Diaz' proposal. Staff is studying whether to put a hotel on airport property or somewhere near the airport.
The full commission is to consider the proposal June 3.
The feasibility of the county building and operating a pet hotel at MIA, as well as possible sites for the facilities, will be examined and presented at the meeting.
This study will be conducted by the planning division at MIA, said Marc Henderson, community relations coordinator for the Aviation Department.
Mr. Diaz is banking on the idea that people can save time by completing two tasks — and two trips at once by dropping off their pets on the way to their flights.
Although the proposal is in the preliminary stages, Mr. Diaz thinks the pet hotel could prove to be successful like similar facilities at other airports appear to be.
"It is a major moneymaker from what we understand," Mr. Diaz said.
A pet boarding operation at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport run by the Humane Society accommodates up to 141 animals, and it is estimated that the airport will collect about $4 million in rent and concession fees from the facility over a 15-year period, according to Mr. Diaz' resolution seeking a feasibility study.
Airports in New Orleans, Portland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Chicago and Houston are exploring pet hotels of their own.
Pet Paradise Resorts, which provides pet lodging at Jacksonville International Airport and several other locations in Florida and elsewhere, is enjoying success despite the country's less-than-stellar economic situation, said Fred Goldsmith, president.
"With airline factors upů and $4 gasoline, all those are reasons for people not to travel," Mr. Goldsmith said. "So there's consequences of what's going on with the rhetoric of a recession but we've continued to do well."
The Jacksonville International Airport Pet Paradise was built in December 2004. The company has six facilities in Florida.
Mr. Goldsmith attributes the success of the Pet Paradise pet hotels to convenience and reliability.
Pet Paradises are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and boast bone-shaped swimming pools, ample indoor and outdoor play areas and Web cams that allow owners to check on their pets over the Internet.
"We try to implement every amenity that would make the pet's vacation fabulous," Mr. Goldsmith said. "We really try to be the Ritz Carlton of pet care."
Mr. Goldsmith said he started his company because he simply couldn't find a facility where he felt comfortable leaving his pets.
If many other travelers in Miami share that concern, then the county's new moneymaking idea could prove to be a success.
"We've just got to be innovative," Mr. Diaz said. "I think that's the key now."