Hotel and resort managers have all the reason to think of ‘bed bugs’ as the dirtiest words in their industry.
The problem isn’t so much the bugs themselves, but how travelers react to online reviews of hotels that have been reported by past guests to have a bed bug infestation. A new study by the University of Kentucky, USA, has put some hard numbers to the financial impact of online reports of bed bugs in hotels. Results show that, on average, a single report of the pesky critters in a recent traveler review decreases the value of a hotel room by $21 per room per night for leisure travelers and by $38 for business travelers.
Conducted in May this year, the study surveyed more than 2,100 respondents – 1,298 leisure travelers and 790 business travelers – about how they would react to various problematic issues encountered in hotel rooms. While ‘signs of smoking,’ ‘small spots on linens,’ and a ‘dirty shower’ were all cited as problematic, nothing topped bed bugs on people’s list of concerns, participants reporting it as the number one reason they would leave the hotel immediately.
Researchers also questioned respondents about likely reactions specific to bed bugs. Asked how they would react to reading an online review that reported a bed bug infestation while looking to select a hotel for an upcoming trip, the majority of both business and leisure travelers said they would not choose that particular hotel. If they were to encounter bed bugs while staying in their hotel room, people would most likely: 1) switch rooms with added compensation, 2) leave the hotel, and 3) report finding bed bugs on social media.
When it comes to bed bugs, the hospitality industry is caught between a rock and a hard place, says the author of the study. “With high turnover of guests, occasional bed bug incidents in hotels are understandable, as in similar types of locations. Many hotel chains already take bed bugs seriously in terms of prevention and early detection. The current study further underscores the importance of being hyper-vigilant.”
As a hotel owner, it’s important to understand that there’s little you can do to keep bed bugs away. Their presence is NOT a sanitation issue, as is the case with rodents and cockroaches. Even the most luxurious hotels in the world have had their share of bed bug problems, and the reason is simple: bed bugs are brought in by guests and travelers. The insects are stealth hitchhikers that can hitch a ride on just about anything, including shoes, handbags, luggage, and clothes.
The only way you can take control of the problem and prevent a reputation nightmare is by monitoring the room closely for the first signs of an outbreak. Regular inspections performed by the housekeeping staff won’t do, though – the bugs, no larger than an apple seed, are difficult to detect by the untrained eye. Small and mainly nocturnal, they like to hide in mattresses and box springs, but also dwell in woodwork, night tables, picture frames, pillows, cushions, and even behind light switch covers. They only come out where there’s a sleeping human nearby.
The most successful management efforts include a combination of regular inspection and cleaning, along with repeated professional applications of bed bug treatments. A visual inspection carried out by a specially trained dog can be amazingly accurate, dogs being able to sniff out bed bugs in all life forms, including eggs and larvae. Upon detection, your pest control professional will likely choose to exterminate the bugs by exposing them to steam heat or freezing agents, the two most successful methods of killing bed bugs on contact.
A proactive approach towards bed bug infestations can make the difference between a few insects in one room and millions swarming the entire hotel. It can also be the difference between a minor setback and a decisive blow to your business’s reputation, from which you will likely never recover. To prevent this, contact an experienced and knowledgeable pest control company in your area and ask about their effective bed bug treatments and preventative strategies. Handling bed bug problems responsibly is the only sure way to give your guests peace of mind and prevent the spread of negative information online.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid garden