Dave Wilkening published an article in an online Hotel industry site, hotelinteractive.com today, about bed bugs in hotels, which was not entirely accurate. First, it made the claim that:
Bed bugs have been in the news lately but when it comes to them checking into hotels, it’s as rare as an outbreak of Asian flu. So rare, in fact, that the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) does not even keep statistics on the number of complaints.
While people watching the news might panic and would be wrong to think that every hotel room in North America is infested with bed bugs, it is absolutely false to claim that the incidence of bed bugs in hotels is “as rare as an outbreak of Asian flu.”
“It’s a very miniscule problem. We sell about three and a half million rooms every night in the US and I can probably count on one hand or maybe two hands the complaints we get,” says Joe McInerney, president of the Association.
I am not sure the number of bed bug cases in hotels can be accounted for by the direct complaints made to the American Lodging and Hotel Association. Most people who encounter bed bugs in hotels probably do not tell anyone officially. Some go so far as to write a review on hotelchatter.com or tripadvisor.com. Most of those are just trying to warn off other travelers. Some will complain to a hotel. But how many will contact the ALHA? If they even know it exists? If you can count on two hands the number of complaints you get about bed bugs, per night, Mr. McInerney, you should assume actual incidence is much, much higher.
Hotels are particularly vulnerable to bed bugs because they often travel in luggage and clothing. Also, there’s the obvious reason that hotels have beds where the creatures love to settle.
This is absolutely true. They are a great target for bed bugs, and they do stay, once introduced from any source. Similarly, they find the luggage appealing and will often hang out in it, and hitch a ride to someone’s home.
Bed bug claims are among the top frauds perpetrated against hotels, however, according to Thomas Jones, an associate professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’s hotel school.
It is doubtless true that some people who file bed bug lawsuits are doing so frivolously. This is harmful to hotels, but also to genuine sufferers from bedbugs, and I despise frivolous or fallacious lawsuits, in any area of our society.
Nevertheless, there are also a great number of people who do pick up bed bugs in a hotel, and many of these take them home. I would venture that in most cases, people who bring bed bugs home don’t sue, and don’t receive anything from the hotels where they picked the problem up. Hoteliers should realize that bringing an infestation home can cost people thousands of dollars.
The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) says bed bugs are on the rise, increasing by more than 500 percent over the past few years.
Yes– so how have hotel rooms been almost completely unscathed (as per your Asian flu/ Bird flu analogy)?
The reported increase, however, has had a “minimal impact on the vast majority of hotels, which maintain state-of-the-art sanitation and adhere to strict standards of cleanliness,” says the NPMA.
James O. Abrams, president of the California Hotel & Lodging Association, says bed bug complaints are more common in recent years. He says he is not sure why.
“No one seems to really know,” he says. “But some people believe they are imported from people from other countries when they bring insects into the US.”
People in some countries have always had bed bugs. Most parts of North America and Europe, to my understanding, have had almost no bed bugs for decades. We were traveling almost as much in the 1990′s as we are in the 21st Century. So why would we suddenly be bringing bed bugs from other countries?
According to many experts, the real cause is related to the change in pesticides (such as the outlawing of DDT in the early 1970′s) and the change in spraying methods (pesticides used to be sprayed heavily to prevent roaches and other insects; we’ve moved to gel baits now, and so this additional preventative spraying may no longer be helping to keep other insects at bay).
“Bed bugs are brought into hotels by guests; it is not hotel sanitation issue,” says the NPMA. “One reason for the increase in incidents is attributed to the rise in international travelers.”
Bed bugs are indeed brought into hotels by guests. However, they may also be brought in by hotel employees and delivery people. Bed bugs can come from all kinds of places. Even hotel executives can have them at home and bring them in.
As far as international travel, North Americans may be surprised to know that in some countries, where they’re now seeing a rise in bed bugs, they assume the bed bugs are being brought by travelers from San Francisco, Vancouver, NYC or Toronto. And in many cases they are probably right.
By the way, one thing that the article did not mention is that money is brought into hotels by guests, too.
Ultimately, people are going to want to stay with hotels who do not try and downplay the existence of this epidemic, or the fact that bed bugs will occur in their hotel as in all others. Instead, consumers will choose to spend their money at hotels where a proactive approach is taken, and where hotel managers and owners and staff do everything they can to prevent, catch, and treat thoroughly and swiftly any infestations that are found. Like this pro-active hotel is trying to. Rather than treating their customers as a potential vehicle for pests coming in, they’re trying to prevent the bugs from harming their customer’s pleasant experience of their hotels. It’s a different way of looking at things. And it is bound to be a more popular one with your bottom line.
The hotel industry should realize that they have the same thing to lose from bed bugs as do homeowners, landlords, and even renters: time, money, energy, and even sanity. They should work together with other demographics of bed bug victims, the general public, to fight for better pesticides and research into other methods of controlling and eliminating bed bugs. We did not have bed bugs in this country for 30 years.; I believe we can eliminate these pests again, but only if we work together.
The hotel industry has much more power than the average citizen; they should be working with us and lobbying the government for help in eliminating bed bugs from the countries they have hotels in. But as long as you deny there’s a problem, and waste time pointing the finger of blame, it is only going to get worse.