Bed bugs biting the hotel industry

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.

~
Image by Peter Edin, used under a Creative Commons License.
Laura Huchzermeyer

Laura Huchzermeyer is an industry editor for First Research at Hoover's. She keeps a watchful eye on the financial services, construction, and real estate industries. Follow her on Twitter.

Read more articles by Laura Huchzermeyer.

Comments

  1. Informative post. I swear I thought bed bugs were mythological creatures until only a few years ago.

  2. They are kinda the boogie bears of insects.

  3. Great article, I heard a fascinating interview on Fresh Air on Sept 8th with Michael Potter, Professor of Entomology, University of Kentucky. He made an interesting point that 30 years ago, people were just more accustomed to the natural world versus a pristine clean room of an existence.

    As someone in the travel industry, I’m semi-indifferent to the bed bug issue. It’s definitely real, but has actually affected a smaller percentage of hotels that the numbers above suggest. And when a hotel has been infected, it’s often a single room or small number of rooms, rather that an infestation across an entire property.

    Basically they had been eradicated because of the use of DDT and chemical poisons which are now frowned upon for use on places where humans lay and sleep. It’s been getting a lot of press, and is a real operational issue, but much more of a media issue currently.

    The real problem for the travel industry is still the economy. Bedbugs are the equivalent of well, bedbugs. You hate the idea of them, but the actual damage they do is pretty minimal compared to other threats.

  4. Barbara-Anne says:

    Yikes! I had no idea. You’re onto something — did you see that summit sold out? Gross…

  5. For some reason, bedbugs just love Ohio and Cincinnati. The town ranks at or near the top for bedbug service calls from Orkin. The bugs even infested the town’s public library. And to make things worse, Time Magazine dubbed Ohio the nation’s bedbug capital in August. The town has been plagued by the suckers for a while and even asked the EPA to exempt its residents from a ban using the pesticide inside homes. I read recently that turning up the heat to a high temperature brings the beasties out and then slowly roasts them. Hope it’s as easy as that. Good luck to Ohioans.

Leave a Comment