ON JULY 27, the Aloft Orlando Downtown hosted a special party to mark a warm-and-fuzzy milestone that is dear to the hearts of hotel associates, guests and people in the community.
Called the Bow Wow Luau, and it celebrated the 100th dog to be adopted in a partnership with the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. The luau was not your everyday canine mixer. The event included two Hawaiian-themed food trucks, live music, a Pawaiian costume contest and other fun activities. Special drinks such as Whisker Sours and Barky Marys were served at the bar.
Hotel staff reached out to people who’ve adopted dogs in hopes of getting all 100 to attend, reunion-style. Additionally, the event was open to dogs from all over — and their owners were invited to drop by too.
In addition, the Pet Alliance showcased 14 tricked-out dog houses featuring custom tile work at the Bow Wow Luau which were all up for auction.
The foster dog program is exclusive to Aloft hotels managed by Tampa-based McKibbon Hospitality. It began at Aloft Asheville Downtown, and was so successful that it has spread to Aloft Greenville Downtown and Aloft Tallahassee Downtown.
Aloft Orlando Downtown adopted the program on May 23, 2018. Dogs, who have been vetted and chosen by the Pet Alliance, reside a 12-square-foot space next to the front desk. Inside the enclosure is a dog house that’s a replica of the hotel building, designed and built pro bono by a local architect.
The pooches are chosen for their ability to thrive in a hotel-lobby environment, and, of course, for maximum cuteness. Over the course of the program, canines have been adopted by locals as well as hotel guests, some of whom have changed their travel plans to accommodate the adoption.
One of them was Travie McCoy, the frontman for the rap-rock band Gym Class Heroes, who was staying at the hotel for a few days as part of a tour stop at nearby Amway Center. He became smitten with Panda, adopted her and took her home to New York. Panda was adoption No. 26 for the hotel.
Overall, the program, currently active in the four Aloft hotels run by McKibbon and likely to expand, has yielded benefits well beyond placing dogs in new homes. It provides guests with a novel and heartwarming experience unusual to a hotel stay, infuses a sense of purpose in the staff that transcends their daily workflow, and rallies the community to the cause.