(BPT) - The summer travel season is upon us, offering an opportunity for families across the U.S. to reconnect. The goal is simple — to make memories that last a lifetime. For example, the Smith family is in vacation-planning mode. Mrs. Smith typically takes the lead with dreams and aspirations of planning their family’s best vacation ever. She starts with a look at her hotel choices on Trip Advisor. According to their website, Trip Advisor is the world’s largest travel site, reaching 340 million unique monthly visitors with reviews of more than 6.5 million accommodations. Mrs. Smith does her research. Is the hotel family-friendly? Does it have a pool? Is it clean? Scanning the reviews of a hotel on her list she reads one traveler’s review that includes a descriptor that no one wants to hear: bedbugs! Mrs. Smith immediately hits the back button. Bedbugs are the very last souvenir she wants her family to bring home. Cross that hotel off the list.
Mrs. Smith is not alone. A recent study conducted by the University of Kentucky found that bedbug reporting on online review sites and social media have a “…big impact on purchasing decisions.” It’s no surprise that both leisure and business travelers would avoid a bedbug infested hotel. Victims of bedbug infestations exploit the internet’s vast readership to describe their bedbug experience resulting in physical distress, sleeplessness, nervousness, anxiety and an extreme disruption in their life. And while on a planned summer vacation with the kids and family… not if they can avoid it!
Meanwhile, across town in a well-appointed corner office, the general manager of a large, nationwide hotel chain, sits reviewing his financial statements. His occupancy rates are down in three of his largest hotels while those same hotel’s operating costs are up. How can that be he asks himself puzzled by the data. Digging deeper, he realizes bedbug infestations occurred in those same three hotels. Rooms were out of service while treatment to the affected room as well as surrounding rooms were being completed. Bedbug treatment costs and loss of rental income negatively hit his bottom line. With internet sites like Trip Advisor, Travelocity and Bed Bug Registry, he wonders how severely those bed bug events impacted traveler’s decisions to stay at those properties.
General managers across the country are feeling the financial bite from bedbugs. According to the same University of Kentucky study previously mentioned, a single online review that mentions bedbugs lowers hotel room value by $38 for business travelers and $23 for leisure travelers.
What exactly is the state of the current hotel-related bedbug problem? Recent studies found that about 74 percent of pest professionals reported problems with bedbugs in hotel rooms, a truly staggering figure. This rise in bedbugs is coupled with a changing public perception, with 43 percent of people now expressing the attitude that bedbugs are a concern. An occurrence of bedbugs can also massively impact a hotel’s brand reputation. Exposure to legal action continues to rise jeopardizing hotel shareholder equity. Just recently, a Virginia woman sought $5 million in a lawsuit over bedbugs. A federal judge ruled in her favor and a jury will hear her case.
So, how can a hotelier and a hotel guest both prevent becoming the latest Trip Advisor bedbug-related casualty? Well, there are a number of things that each can do to win this battle. Let’s take a closer look.
* Education is key. Research proves that two-thirds of travelers surveyed by the University of Kentucky last year couldn’t identify a bedbug. Hotel staff and individual travelers are encouraged to be able to recognize a bedbug in its different life stages as well as signs of bedbugs in and around beds.
* Forward thinking in bedbug prevention has savvy hoteliers and travelers investigating the root of the problem. Savvy hoteliers are designing hotel rooms to be more bedbug resistant.
* Hoteliers and homeowners are adopting preventative measures for their mattresses and/or box springs such as an active mattress liner that kill bedbugs. ActiveGuard(R)Mattress Liners go on like a fitted sheet and can save time, money and energy preventing bedbug infestations from establishing. Sophisticated travelers and hoteliers know that bedbugs are difficult to recognize, and are skilled hitchhikers easily gaining access to the bed. Having an active liner in place that starts working within 10 minutes of contact can assist in saving a room from developing a full-blown bedbug infestation.
While recent reports may show that bedbugs are winning, the war is not over. Embracing technology, educating oneself and taking a preventative approach to this blood-sucking pest can lead to victory for both hoteliers and travelers.