With its vast array of landscapes, hip cities and rich cultural heritage, Greece is a traveler’s paradise. Unfortunately, if said traveler is accompanied by a four-legged companion things can get more complicated, as pets are restricted in many hotels and other locations. Even information about what is and isn’t allowed is often hard to come by.
Now a new startup is hoping to make life easier for those traveling with pets, by providing a range of services and information. “When planning a holiday to Amorgos with my pet in 2015, I suddenly realized how challenging it would be, and how few guarantees there were for me to find the things I needed, like a pet-friendly accommodation,” says Woof Club founder Elena Dede. “In 2016 I carried out some market research and discovered that of the hotels that define themselves as ‘pet friendly’, which is around one third of Greek hotels (mainly on the islands), 96% of them in fact didn’t offer a pet policy, and were thus unreliable.”
“Having a pet-policy is essential for guaranteeing things such as getting accommodation – without the pet policy hotels can change their minds – and access to veterinary care if necessary,” Dede explains.
Just one year later, Dede set up Woof Club, which has already picked up a Silver Award in the Startup category in Greece’s 2017 Tourism Awards. The recently-launched company (the site went live on April 5), aims to create a database of Greece’s pet-friendly hotels: “By the end of this summer we aim to have incorporated more than 200 hotels that have a pet policy,” Dede says.
Woof Club also offers pet-owning travelers services such as the Paw Box Travel Kit, which includes accessories such as food, a towel, treats, a travel water bowl and baggies, Veterinary Coverage that connects you with vets who can reach you within 20 minutes wherever you may be, and Pet-Friendly Tips, a treasure trove of practical advice based on your destination of choice, such as pet-friendly restaurants, planned activities and other pet-inclusive needs.
The active animal lover, who has adopted a dog called Tassos and a cat called Niata, has many plans for Woof Club. “We are organizing pet-friendly tours next,” she says, “offering ways for travelers to experience sites and landscapes in the company of their pets. And further on in the future we will also be creating luxury concierge services for pets, starting with islands like Santorini, Mykonos and Paros.”
Dede is also the founder of Dog’s Voice, a network of 70 animal associations in Greece that focus on issues such as the adoption of unwanted dogs and the promotion of animal rights across the country.
When asked whether she believes things are looking up for our four-legged friends, she says: “Things have been improving over the past five years in the sense that there are more pet lovers, and businesses are exhibiting greater tolerance for pets and pet-owners. But there remains a huge cultural gap when you compare Greece with European counterparts. People here still widely perceive animals as things rather than beings. For our pets to live in the way they deserve, the road is still long!”
But hopefully companies like the Woof Club will help create a pragmatic as well as fun shift in the tourism landscape, and making Greece a friendlier destination for all.