There’s long been an adage: “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” While that is true in many instances, when it comes to bed bugs and other pests in hotels, that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. For hotels, insects and other pests such as birds and rodents can cause havoc for guests and for a hotel’s bottom line. This is particularly true of bed bugs—those much publicized night stalkers that creep people out so much that some have gone as far as to file lawsuits against businesses.
Despite a hotel’s best efforts, there’s no way to keep bed bugs out with any certainty. The notoriously transient critters hitchhike their way around the world on the bags and clothing of travelers. So your hotel is only as safe as your next night’s guest or your employees’ next commute to work. But that’s not a reason to put your hands up in the air and say, “What am I going to do?”
No one likes to find bed bugs, but the cost of not finding them is far more excessive than running and hiding from an infestation. I recently discussed the costs of eradicating bed bugs with renowned entomologist Dr. Michael Potter of the University of Kentucky. “The cost [of eradication] varies with the situation, in particular how long the problem has been neglected,” he told me in an interview for Lodging’s Pest Control supplement in the July 2011 issue. “If you really have a low level of infestation that is caught early, it’s a lot easier to get rid of them largely because they tend to be more confined to the sleeping area.”
That’s all the more reason for hotels to learn and embark on a proper plan for inspecting rooms and containing bed bug infestations in their early stages. Such an effort can be mean the difference of thousands upon thousands of dollars in repeated eradication efforts. “Catching it early is the key, because that will influence how easy and how costly it will be to get rid of them,” Potter says.
However, most hotels and their employees only have a rudimentary knowledge of how to inspect for bed bugs. Moreover, most don’t properly train their staffs to conduct regular inspections, or even know how to train them to do so. As Potter points out, hotels can’t rely solely on their pest control company to find problems. It is up to your staff to learn and practice proper inspections.
These inspections not only help contain infestations, but also help you contain problems if a guest happens upon bed bugs. Your staff must also be properly trained on how to deal with guests who find problems in their rooms. Knowing how to deal with guests and the public at large in the face of a discovered infestation can make a huge difference when it comes to your hotel’s reputation and even during possible litigation that may follow at a later time.
Taking the time to learn how to contain bed bugs and other pest control issues in your hotel can end up saving you a lot of cash down the road.
You can hear more from Michael Potter as he further discusses what hoteliers should know about bed bugs at The Bed Bug & Pest Control Conference presented by Lodging, Aug. 22-24, at the Renaissance Downtown Chicago. You can register at www.lodgingmagazineevents.com.