NATIONAL REPORT—Bed bugs have become one of the biggest headaches for many hotel owners and managers. A review on TripAdvisor (or another review site) that mentions the pests could damage a property’s reputation, while a bed bug sighting by a current guest will create a major disruption.
Worldwide, bed bugs have become an epidemic for the hospitality industry. A recent search of the term “bed bug” on TripAdvisor finds more than 111,000 results in the lodging category, with another 21,000 in vacation rentals. Although there is no way to verify that all of the reviews mentioning bed bugs are truthful, it still shows the size of the problem.
Also, bed bug incidents can be costly for years to come. Just this past October, according to Arkansas Online, a family from that state was awarded $546,000 for trauma they said they experienced in 2013 while staying in a California hotel room infested with bed bugs.
In some cases, what a guest might think is a bed bug bite or a reaction caused by one, may be something else entirely.
“You never want to pin that reaction down to something [specific],” said Angela Tucker, manager of technical services for Memphis-based pest control company Terminix. “The reason for that is it could be a reaction to medication, or you may have some kind of autoimmune disorder, or you might even have an unexpected reaction to something that you have been using for years and then, all of a sudden, you develop some kind of reaction to it.”
But, what can a hotel do if a guest posts a review online complaining that his or her guestroom had bed bugs?
“We highly recommend communicating with honesty, transparency and explaining the actions taken to address their concerns,” noted Sandra DiVito, VP of sales, hospitality division, for Wheeling, IL-based mattress protection company Protect-A-Bed. “While it is impossible to prevent every challenge that can befall a property, it is important that former, current and future guests understand how quickly the hotel acted to resolve the concern and what steps have been put in place to assure their guests’ well-being.”
Sam Montross, CEO and product development specialist for West Palm Beach, FL-based CKI Solutions, which provides bedding products to the hospitality, cruise and healthcare industries, has this advice for a general manager dealing with a bed bug review: “He or she should respond the moment it hits with a confident statement like, ‘We apologize for any discomfort from a bite. The minute we were informed, we took immediate action to eliminate the problem. Like other quality, vigilant hotels, we have a five-step program to prevent bed bug outbreaks. But, should a new guest introduce a bug to a room through their luggage or clothing, we also have a solid program of immediate intervention to ensure no other guest needs to be concerned.’”
Donna Charpentier, director, strategic accounts for CleanBrands LLC, a Warwick, RI-based company that provides bedding encasements to a number of industries, pointed out that the bottom line for hotels is that “negative customer reviews equal brand damage which, in turn, equals lost revenue.”
She added, “If a guest is complaining about bed bugs on social media after a hotel stay, it is important to move the conversation off-line to mitigate any further unwanted exposure on social media. Keep in mind, hotels are not only responding to the guest logging the complaint; they are also responding to all potential future guests reading the hotel’s response to the complaint.”
Tucker also noted that it is important to take the conversation off-line, in an effort to not only get more information, but also to educate the guest.
“Now when you’re off-line, you might want to provide additional information because not everyone knows about bed bugs,” she said. “You might have something that looks like a bite today, but that may not be related to a bed bug. Or, you might have actually been bitten by an arthropod, but that bite happened a week ago and your body was just slow to respond. That’s not something you want to address online, but may be a conversation you have when you follow up with that client to get more information about the bed bug—where he or she was and what the guest thought was seen or felt.”
Of course, bed bug complaints will often happen while the guest is staying at the hotel. Montross suggested to take a personal approach with that situation.
“If a guest in a room gets a bite, offer to move the guest while the room is being treated,” she said. “Make sure you send a basket of fruit or some gift to alleviate some of the annoyance. If the guest is unsure whether it was a bed bug, take enough interest to take a look at the bite. It may have only been a mosquito or, with so many pet hotels, the bite may have been from a flea. Bed bugs often bite near a vein and, if more than one bite, there might be two or three in a line. It is rare to hear of anyone being bitten by a bed bug in a hairy area of the body.”
While bed bug bites often look like what Montross described, Tucker said there is no clear way to determine if the reaction was caused by a bed bug.
“I’ve had someone describe it as a group of bites and a line along a nerve line,” she said. “Well shingles, which is not at all related to arthropods, can produce a reaction that looks like raised welts right along the nerve line.”
After there is a bed bug sighting, or there has been a review posted complaining of bed bugs, hotels should begin their bed bug protocol. It is essential for all properties to have one, and that staff members are well educated as to what the procedure is. “It is important to fully investigate any infestation claims to ensure they are real and confirm the extent of the affected area(s). Immediately implement your risk management protocol,” noted DiVito.
Charpentier offered an example of the steps a hotel should take when tackling a bed bug issue: “Offer a new room immediately to the guest(s), and be aware that they may request compensation; offer to launder the guests’ clothes; ensure you don’t remove anything from the infested room(s); check adjacent rooms, as well as the rooms directly above and below the infested area; bring in a licensed pest management professional for a thorough inspection and treatment immediately; and shut down all rooms affected until they are certified as bed bug free.”
Tucker has personally experienced a bed bug sighting in her travels and shared how she and the hotel handled the issue. “What I did was I just took the bed bug down to the front desk and showed it to the clerk. I told them I was an entomologist so I asked them for a trash bag, where I put my belongings. When I moved them out of the hotel, I kept them in a trash bag. Then, I asked them to move me to another floor that was not touching or was nowhere near that room, which they did. They called their pest control company, which came out the next day and inspected and treated as needed. I didn’t take any bed bugs home. I actually think that the bed bug I found was moving from one room into another, so I had recommended that they go and inspect the next room over.”
While bed bugs will likely be revealed through human inspection, CKI Solutions’ Montross offered another form of inspection. “Great results are often reported from using bug-sniffing dogs. Identify whether there is a dog-sniffing service in the area,” she said. “Dogs can identify all areas of the room that are infected. If they are only on the mattress, have a few laboratory-certified bed-bug encasements on hand and immediately cover the mattress to prevent the bugs from getting out. Bed bugs can live without food for up to a year so just leave the encasement on the bed.”
Guests are not the only ones who are able to find bed bugs. Since the housekeeping staff goes in and out of guestrooms constantly, they should be educated about bed bugs—not only to be able to find them within the hotel, but also how to keep themselves (or any other staff member) from bringing bed bugs onto the property.
“If you’re concerned that your staff could bring bed bugs from home, make sure you have routine seminars or educational talks about bed bugs and how they move around,” said Terminix’s Tucker. “Explain that we are now living in a time, particularly in really large cities, where there’s just a lot of travel going on where bed bugs can easily be moved from the home to the school to the bar to the restaurant to the hotel.”
As for the room, “Hotel staff should look for bed bug eggs, feces and the pests themselves. Check between the headboard and mattress, as well as the box spring,” said Protect-A-Bed’s DiVito. “Bed bugs can squeeze into the smallest spaces, so if the property has not implemented early protection of mattress and box spring encasements, it’s best to examine along mattress seams as well.”
So, what should the housekeeping staff look for when inspecting for bed bugs?
“Bed bugs are flat, oval-shaped, reddish-brown wingless insects, and measure approximately 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch,” noted CleanBrands’ Charpentier. “Younger bed bugs—nymphs—are smaller and translucent in color. Look for shed skin; blood and fecal smears; live bed bugs; and eggs. They are great at hiding, so concentrate on mattresses and box springs, as they are bed bugs’ preferred places of harborage. They are most active at night when hotel guests are sleeping, where they feed on the guests’ blood. Also inspect upholstered furniture, including chairs, sofa beds and benches; bed frames and headboards; and bedding, such as comforters, sheets, bed skirts, shams and pillows.”
Tucker pointed out an essential tool to finding the insects. “Use a flashlight to detect movement,” she said. “The nymphs kind of blend in a little bit, but with a flashlight, you’ll be able to see the contrast and see them.”
She offered some advice on how to approach guests who notice the disruption of a bed bug inspection by a pest control company.
“You probably don’t want to tell all of your guests, ‘Hey we think we have bed bugs,’ but you might want to keep a log of who was there,” she said. “That way, if they call a week later, you can say, ‘OK, let’s inspect the room and move from there.’” HB
Anti-aging pillowcases turn back time at Jumeirah Carlton Tower
LONDON—Wouldn’t it be nice if the aging process could be slowed down overnight?
The 216-room Jumeirah Carlton Tower, located in this city’s Knightsbridge section, is giving its guests the opportunity to turn back time by offering Iluminage’s Skin Rejuvenating Pillowcase as part of its exclusive anti-aging package.
According to Hugh Murphy, director of leisure at The Peak Health Club & Spa at Jumeirah Carlton Tower, the cases are specially woven with copper oxide fibers, an essential mineral that has been used in skincare and beauty products for many years.
“Naturally found in the skin, copper is known to help reduce the visible signs of fine lines and wrinkles,” he said. “The pillowcases have been crafted with satin-soft materials, and clinical trials have shown the pillowcase improves the skin’s overall appearance after just four weeks, with a continuing effect over time.”
Besides the pillowcase, the anti-aging package includes a one-night stay at Jumeirah Carlton Tower; a 90-minute Kobido and Global Lift facial by anti-aging skin specialists Skeyndor; and a skin-boosting breakfast in bed. Murphy added, “All guests staying at the hotel also receive complimentary access to The Peak Health Club & Spa throughout their stay.”
The package has been popular with “a mix of guests from the U.K. and Europe who are looking to maintain their healthy, youthful glow,” noted Murphy.
He also pointed out that the package has received rave reviews since it was introduced at the beginning of this year.
“Guests have loved the various elements of the package and, in particular, the Skeyndor Kobido and Global Lift facial, which allows guests to see the results within just one hour of having the treatment,” said Murphy.
The pillowcases are for guests to keep, but if they want to order more, Murphy noted that they are available to purchase at iluminagebeauty.com. According to Iluminage, the anti-aging technology has been proven to last for more than 100 washes.