The year 2010 has been filled with ups and downs, recoveries and failures. Oh, and bedbugs.
In case the economic recession, marked by lagging retail sales and slumping hotel occupancy rates, wasn’t enough to terrorize businesses across the US, now they must deal with an increasing amount of unwelcome, bloodsucking critters infesting mattresses, bedding, and clothing. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), bed bugs are back in a big way (after near eradication in the 1970s due to the use of the now-banned pesticide DDT). NPMA conducted a survey of US businesses and reported in July that 95% of respondents confirmed that they had encountered a bed bug infestation in the past year. Before 2000 only 25% had problems with the pests.
The teeny tiny insects have gotten under the collective skin of an entire country this year. The pesky insects have made headlines after being found in movie theaters, dorm rooms, restaurants, offices, and hotels. A Nike store and an Abercrombie & Fitch in New York City were shutdown due to bed bugs this year. This week the bed bug craze hit fever pitch in Chicago as business leaders, entomologists, exterminators, and even bed bug-sniffing dogs gathered for the first Bedbug University North America summit. Their sole mission: to win the battle against bed bugs.
State hotel associations have held similar seminars across the country and helped hotels set up protocols on how to deal with bed bug infestations. The hospitality industry, with its high visitor turnover, is more susceptible to bed bugs. It is practically impossible to prevent the hard-to-kill bugs from entering a hotel. And the industry has been left to deal with the fallout. Hotels have been sued or their reputations tainted by guests’ encounters with the bugs. One website, BedbugRegistry.com, even encourages guests to log their experiences with bed bugs at specific hotels.
While some industries are struggling to combat bed bugs, others are profiting from the problem. Exterminators and makers of mattress protection covers and other devices marketed to kill or contain bed bugs have seen a jump in demand.
The thought of bed bugs probably has your skin crawling. But it also has businesses scrambling on how best to deal with the pests and how to ease customers’ fears. And just put that on the list of problems and things to do for US hoteliers and retailers as they fight to recover from the recession. If it’s not one thing, it’s bed bugs.