THE Sunshine Coast's dog-loving mayor has thrown his personal support behind an ambitious plan to make the region the pet-friendly tourism capital of Queensland.
The Coast's peak tourism body hopes to lure more tourists - and their dogs - to our beaches, saying the niche market is worth millions of extra dollars to the region.
Recent surveys have shown one in five tourists would bring their dog or cat with them if they had a pet-friendly place to stay.
Already almost 180 places on the Coast promote themselves as pet-friendly.
The operators say their business has surged since they advertised the fact that they allowed dogs.
Mayor Bob Abbot, who loves taking his little dog, Toby, out for a cuppa with him, said he planned a trip throughout central Queensland and would seek pet-friendly accommodation.
He said it was important the Coast identified niche markets and offered a point of difference.
"It is a market which is certainly growing and one we should be considering," Cr Abbot said.
Cr Abbot said the council was still reviewing its rules governing dogs on beaches.
"We have got to get places where dogs can go and places where people can go without dogs," he said.
The council has 37 designated off-leash areas on the Sunshine Coast: 24 parks and 13 beaches.
Accommodation providers around Noosa and Peregian, and those in the hinterland, are already tapping into the pooch potential.
Horizons at Peregian has 16 apartments and 12 of them are designated as pet friendly.
Resident manager Rod Stringer said his biggest customers were the empty nesters.
"Their families have moved out and their pets are their lives," Mr Stringer said.
Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd (SCD) officials said the market was huge.
The typical visitor had an average annual household income of $50,000 to $99,999.
People allowed to bring their pets are likely to stay longer on the Coast and spend the money they would have otherwise forked out on dog kennels.
SCD communications manager Karen Doane said the tourism body would be getting the message out through pet-friendly websites, publications and social media.
SCD also hopes to enlist TV's most famous vet, Dr Harry from Better Homes and Gardens, to promote our pet credentials.
Ms Doane said she did not believe it would turn off tourists who did not like dogs as there were hundreds of places where they could stay.
Coast needs dog friendly outdoor cafes as well
SUZANNAH Arkle, of Lagoon Pocket Bed & Breakfast near Gympie, has been offering pet friendly accommodation for nine years.
"We think it is wonderful. People love going away with their pets.
"The repeat market is huge for us.''
She said in the time she had been operating she had never had a problem with either fights or destruction of property.
"The dogs are allowed into the rooms but not on the bedding.
A good vacuum cleaner dealt with any problems with hair while a $10 a night charge for dogs or $15 for two dogs covers an extra cleaning expenses.
But Mrs Arkle said a pet gripe of dog lovers was there were not enough places to eat where they could take their dog.
She said she lived in England for a time and was able to take her dog into five-star hotels, pubs and on the train.
Mrs Arkle said she found the restrictions here 'bizarre'. "I just don't understand it.''
She said it should be at the discretion of cafe owners whether people could bring their dogs.
Mrs Arkle will not get any argument from the mayor on that after he recently led the council call for the State Government to review its 'no dog' policy at outdoor dining areas.
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