Many Americans are concerned about the presence of bed bugs when traveling, and believe that infestations in the United States are increasing. In fact, according to a recent survey by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), 80% of Americans are most concerned about encountering bed bugs in hotel rooms. These tiny blood feeders have become the number one pest problem faced by hotels, motels and similar hospitality venues. Bed bug control is inherently difficult, but even a single complaint can turn into a public relations nightmare for a hotel.
Guest complaints about bed bugs in hotel rooms can have a negative effect on bookings. Thanks to the Internet, consumer reviews and opinions are a mere mouse click away. Online resources such as The Better Business Bureau, The Bed Bug Registry, and Yelp are only three of the thousands available for public use. Granted, complaints are not the only comments made, but research shows that dissatisfied customers are more likely to tell others about their experience than satisfied customers.
According to Lee Resources, 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again. That means that once a customer encounters a bed bug in your facility, he or she is highly unlikely to return, and you have therefore lost that possible repeat business. In order to gain back those profits, a new customer must be obtained – which is much easier said than done. In fact, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, D.C., it costs five to six times as much to acquire a new (first time) customer as it does to keep a current one. Now your facility is not only dealing with bad publicity and unhappy guests, but profit losses as well.
The potential impact resulting from bed bugs in hotel rooms include:
- Loss of repeat business
- Room refunds
- Cleaning and extermination costs
- Replacement of infested furniture
- Loss of income due to damaged reputation
- Medical, litigation and settlement costs
Although bed bugs have never been directly associated with the transmission of a disease, in May of 2011, several newspapers reported on a peer-reviewed study published online which suggested the pests could play a role in the transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE). The journal, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contained information pertaining to a small sample of bedbugs collected from a handful of residents living in Vancouver, B.C. Researchers found the drug-resistant bacterium known as MRSA in three of the five collected insects, and VRE in the other two. Due to the size of the study, no conclusions can accurately be drawn. However, it has led to a rise in concern and emphasis on the need for further studies.
News of this possible link may be part of the reason why the number of reports of bed bugs in hotel rooms has increased. Not only are travelers more educated and aware of the issue, but they’re also becoming more interested in filing tort lawsuits against the infested hotels, which are news-worthy stories.
The best measure a hotel can take is prevention. If action is withheld until an actual incident occurs, the damage can be costly. At that point, the infestation will most likely be throughout the facility, and not an isolated incident. The entire hotel will require extensive inspection and servicing which, depending on the number of potential harborages in a hotel room, may require up to several hours of work per room.
In addition to treating cloth items such as bedding, mattresses, cushions, upholstery and curtains, other areas will include:
- Bed frames and cracks or voids in bed frames
- Cracks, voids and drawers in bedside tables
- Cracks, voids and the undersides of chairs, cabinets and other furniture frames
- Cracks behind wooden flooring
- Under area rugs and along the edges of wall to wall carpeting
- Crevices around curtain rods and fixtures
- The voids containing electrical, telephone or cable outlets
- Under picture frames
- Under loose wallpaper
With news of bed bugs resurfacing in nearly every city and small town across America, including New England, now is the time for hotel management teams to take action. Even if you do not suspect the presence of these nocturnal blood feeders, being proactive is a small price to pay in comparison to the costs that a full blown infestation would lead to. By taking the necessary precautions and enlisting the help of a professional pest management company trained in bed bug control, you’ll be significantly reducing the negative impacts and potential long-term effects caused by guests discovering bed bugs in your hotel rooms.