Don't let the bed bugs bite—it's a common phrase told endearingly to children, but among hotel managers it's a stout declaration.

How hotels can prevent bed bug infestations

Amy MitchellBusiness Insurance, Insurance, Risk Management

Don’t let the bed bugs bite—it’s a common phrase told endearingly to children, but among hotel managers it’s a stout declaration.

One infestation could bring about general liability claims, lawsuits and potentially interrupt normal business for an extended period of time. It’s essential the hospitality industry stay diligent when it comes to preventing these blood-sucking pests from overrunning your lodging building.

Why all the fuss?
Bed bugs are the scourge of any company with beds for rent. According to a 2015 study by the National Property Management Association and University of Kentucky, 75 percent of respondents found and treated infestations in hotels or motels over the previous year.

Hiding in all shapes and sizes, ridding the bugs from locations can be difficult, never​ mind actually finding them. The insects commonly burrow in tight, warm places, like within the box springs of a mattress. But they can also be found in other unusual places, and normally travel between locations in luggage and handbags. Although the pest control industry is making strides in identifying and rooting them out, 68 percent of the NPMA survey respondents said they were the toughest infestation to get rid of.

As any housekeeper can attest to, there’s simply no way to stop bed bugs from entering a facility. Early detection remains the hospitality industry’s best bet, which is why most hotels have preventative testing every three months or so. Even then, an exterminator would usually need to make at least three visits to get rid of the infestation, according to the Penn State University Extension.

Bed bugs can hide in various nooks and crannies.Bed bugs can hide in various nooks and crannies.

Get a plan in action
Reducing the chances of a bed bug infestation relies heavily on daily housekeepers in the hospitality industry, as well as regular detection methods. Training the caretaker staff on how to spot signs of bed bugs—from where to search to exactly what they look like—can improve the speed with which the pests are spotted. Then, a hotel manager can employ an incentive program, like a $50 reward for catching a bed bug, to boost awareness.

Periodic pest control sweeps are an absolute must. These can manifest themselves in a few ways:

  • Monthly spraying.
  • Manual check-ups on furniture.
  • Canine searches in hard to reach places, like between walls or underneath carpets.

Although many don’t initially think of canines right away as a solution, it has become an effective method to detect bed bugs in places that are difficult to reach. Trained by entomologists to pick up the pest by scent, dogs are able to locate the bugs in under two minutes, while a normal pest control professional may take a couple of hours to check places like alarm clocks and headboards of beds.

“Preventing bed bugs means being diligent about infestation.”

Purchasing mattress cases has proven to be helpful in the past, as they cut out one of the major points of infestation out of the equation. For the price of roughly $50, give or take, per room, managers can rest easy at night knowing a portion of the room is defended against bed bugs.

Not all prevention methods specifically align with infestation though. Bed bugs can bring about lawsuits and severely cripple a hotel’s reputation. It only takes one guest posting a photo on social media to cause irreparable damage. Staff should be properly trained to accommodate any bed bug complaints. This means having a customer service and remediation plan in place, and it will likely require some time spent training to ensure there’s no “freelancing” when they respond to guests.

Bed bugs are likely to plague the hospitality industry for years to come, but you can avoid any serious problems associated with them by staying diligent and laser-focused on preventing any infestations.

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