You’ve probably heard that bedbugs have made a comeback in the United States over the past decade, but just how serious is it? A recent survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky found that a whopping 95 percent of U.S. pest-management professionals encountered a bedbug infestation in the past year. Compare that to pre-2000 statistics, when only 25 percent of U.S. survey respondents reported fighting such an infestation.
Hotels are on the front lines of the bedbug battle. The same survey found that two out of three respondents had treated bedbug infestations in hotels and motels. And a consumer study conducted by NPMA in November 2010 found that nearly 80 percent of Americans are most concerned about encountering bedbugs at hotels.
While meeting planners don’t need to look for alternate venues, they can help their hotel partners by educating attendees about these vermin.
1. Bedbugs are equal-opportunity pests. They have been found at luxury and budget properties. An infestation of bedbugs is not evidence of unclean or unsanitary conditions—they have probably been brought in by guests or staff. Bedbugs have been found in many places besides lodging establishments, from single-family homes and college dormitories to movie theaters and schools.
2. Bedbugs in hotels tend to be isolated incidents. Typically, a guest has brought the pests into a room unknowingly and the infestation is not indicative of a hotelwide problem.
3. Be wary of Web sites. Many Web sites claim to have information about which hotels have bedbugs, but those sites don’t require accountability from their posters and don’t verify whether the posting is true.
4. Hotels are proactive. Most hoteliers have educated their employees about bedbug detection and work closely with pest management companies to create monitoring and control plans. Ask your venue about its plan.
5. Know how to check a room. When guests arrive in a hotel room, they should put their luggage in the bathroom or on another tiled surface—never on the bed—then thoroughly inspect the room before unpacking. Look behind the headboard, in sofas and chairs, and in the seams of the mattress, box spring, and dust ruffle for telltale bedbug stains, spots, shed skins, and bugs themselves. If guests spot signs of bedbugs, they should be moved to a new room at least two floors above or two floors below—never adjacent to the room that’s believed to be infested.
6. Bedbugs are hitchhikers. Bedbugs like to travel and will hide in suitcases, laptop bags, boxes, and shoes to be near a food supply. They are elusive creatures that prefer dark rooms and crevices. They can hide behind baseboards, electrical switch plates, picture frames, even wallpaper and come out, usually at night, for a blood meal.
7. Returning home. Advise your attendees to inspect suitcases before bringing them into their homes and vacuum them thoroughly before storing away. They should wash all clothes from the trip, whether worn or not, in hot water and dry on a high dryer setting or take them to the dry cleaner.
While discomforting, bedbug infestations are becoming the norm, rather than the exception, increasing the need for education and awareness. The key to eliminating bedbugs is to contact a pest professional. Bedbugs cannot be controlled with do-it-yourself measures.
Missy Henriksen is vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association, Fairfax, Va.