Tennessee Hotel and Lodging Association: “Bedbugs are really a non-issue”

by nobugsonme on August 7, 2008 · 6 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in hotels, spread of bed bugs, tennessee

Several articles came out Wednesday about the spread of bed bugs in Nashville, Tennessee, both in hotels and in homes.

The Tennesseean reports that the Metro Health Department in Nashville investigates complaints about bed bugs in hotels, and keeps track of them:

The Metro Health Department has received 30 complaints of bedbugs at area hotels and motels in the first seven months of 2008, compared with 35 complaints in 2007.

That means the rate of bed bug complaints in Nashville hotels has gone up from an average of 2.9 a month in 2007 to 4.2 a month so far in 2008. That’s a significant increase.

But the increase does not concern the head of the Tennesee Hotel and Lodging Association:

Still, Walt Baker, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Hotel and Lodging Association, said visitors to Nashville can rest easy.

He noted there are 23,000 hotel rooms in Davidson County, 60 percent of which are occupied on any given night. So, he said, 30 complaints in 2008 is insignificant.

“Bedbugs are really a non-issue,” he said. “It’s not on our radar screen, it’s so small.”

If there were only 4.2 cases of bed bugs in Nashville hotels every month, some would argue that this is a small problem. (I’d still say it is worth taking seriously, especially given the increase from the previous year, and considering the havoc those bed bugs can wreak in the homes of paying customers who take them home.)

But we should assume that since a sizeable percentage of people do not react to bed bug bites and will have no idea they were bitten, that there are likely more bed bug encounters in Nashville hotels.

Add to this the fact that it probably does not occur to most people to call the local public health department when they encounter a pest in a hotel, and still others simply won’t bother. I’d assume that if you have 4.2 complaints per month, there are many more actual cases.

Now, I’m not much of a litigious sort. But if I encountered bed bugs in a Nashville hotel, Walt Baker’s dismissal of the bed bug problem as a “non-issue” would make me want to sue the pants off the hotel where I was bitten or where I picked up bed bugs and brought them home.

This dismissive attitude from the head of the lodging trade group in Tennessee definitely does not make me want to spend my tourist dollars in that town anytime soon.

News Channel 5 in Nashville tells viewers,

To check if a specific hotel has bedbugs, call the Metro Public Health Department at 615-340-5630.

And if you encounter bed bugs in a Nashville hotel or motel, why not call Metro Public Health at that same number, and report it?

1 Gord August 7, 2008 at 2:27 am

“Bedbugs are really a non-issue,” – Walt Baker, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Hotel and Lodging Association –

I wonder if Ol’ Walt would be singing the same tune, if he had to live with BB’s.

2 parakeets August 7, 2008 at 11:17 am

Doesn’t the chief executive officer of the Tennessee Hotel and Lodging Association, Walt Baker, who says “Bedbugs are really a non-issue,” have anyone on his staff who can use a computer? All they’d have to do is enter the search string “Nashville hotel bedbugs” in Google and they’d see PLENTY of references to people who have had bedbug bites in hotels in Nashville. Maybe then it would be an issue to them!

I think the real issue here is the hotel industry PR spin. You can always quote how many letters you get or don’t about bedbugs but that doesn’t mean anything if people don’t know where to send their letters. Usually 5% or even less of people with complaints will actually send letters anyway, so you better multiply that number by 20 at the minimum. How many of those letters were regarding lawsuits?

3 Doug Summers MS August 10, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Did you really expect him to say that the bed bugs are destroying his industry?

This is the band playing on while the ship is sinking.

4 nobugsonme August 11, 2008 at 1:06 am


Well said! I guess not. But “bed bugs are not on our radar screen” is a bit extreme.

But the Hawaiian hotel industry group is getting government help, and admitting it has a problem:


5 buggedonLI January 30, 2010 at 9:30 am

My bed bug problem started shortly after a stay at a Franklin TN hotel, but I think it is more likely from when I moved.

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