Features.

Pest control strategy: preventing unwanted guests

Although small in size, pests can have a big impact on a property’s reputation and bottom line. But with the right preventative measures and proper handling, hoteliers can avoid negative reviews and costly remediation. Click. explores

by Nicola Donovan, Click. Travel Writer, Booking.com

Topic: Guest experience

Click. Takeaway

  • Bed bugs have once again become a common problem in the hospitality industry, with 90% of hotels treated for the insect in 2016 alone
  • From major expense to damaging reviews, hoteliers face a number of threats by not having an exemplary pest management strategy in place
  • Research has found that almost two out of three travellers would be unlikely to book a hotel room if there was even a single report of bed bugs, confirmed or not
  • Educating hotel staff on signs to look our for and processes to follow is key in ensuring infestations don’t occur

Far from being just an annoyance, pests are a significant business challenge every property must prepare for. And while they can include everything from rodents to insects, one pest in particular poses the biggest threat to the industry. Hitch-hiking back into properties in recent years, bed bugs have once again become a common problem with 90% of hotels treated for the insect in 2016 alone.

“In terms of pests, the number one issue by far for the hospitality industry is bed bugs,” agrees Michael Potter, Entomologist at the University of Kentucky. “That said, there can also be problems with ants, mice and cockroaches – and any of those pests are concerning, but bed bugs are the issue that’s driving the hospitality industry crazy.”

The price of pests

From major expense to damaging reviews, the irritants hoteliers face by not having an exemplary pest management strategy are enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. “Given that the majority of travellers consider online reviews when booking accommodations, anything that has an impact on the reputation of a hotel is important,” says Potter. “A study we did found that almost two out of three travellers would be unlikely to book a hotel room if there was even a single report of bed bugs, confirmed or not. That’s an enormous number that would manifest into reduced bookings, loss of revenue and potential damage to the property’s reputation.”

rawpixel.com, Unsplash

Photo: Rawpixel.com, Pexels

“It’s been estimated that online reports of bed bugs can diminish room values by as much as US$25 to US$35 per night for leisure and business travellers,” continues Potter. “Our study also found that bed bugs are the only problematic incident a guest could encounter at a hotel that would cause them to flee the property. If they check into a room and find a dirty towel or the room smells, the problem can be rectified by calling the front desk or requesting a new room. But if they discover bed bugs, it’s such an emotional thing that it would send guests packing.”

Preventative solutions

When it comes to pest management, it’s vital for properties to be proactive. In fact, daily and weekly inspections are three to four times more likely to be conducted by hotel staff, so educating employees on signs to look out for and processes to follow if something is suspected or detected is key in ensuring infestations don’t occur.

“It’s incredibly important to train housekeeping and maintenance workers on what to look for in order to catch problems early, but hoteliers should also be training their customer relations staff about the issue,” says Potter. “It’s crucial in hospitality that staff know how to respond promptly to incidents and complaints. Whether that means moving the guest or comping them the room, whatever it takes to show them you care and keep them from posting a negative review.”

It goes without saying that sanitation plays a significant role in preventing pests. This is especially true during busy periods, when an increase in perishables can lead to an appealing environment for critters if not quickly dealt with. “When we think of pests like cockroaches or rodents, for example, they need food and water,” says Chelle Hartzer, Entomologist and Manager of Technical Services at Orkin. “It’s incredibly important to have steps in place before pests are evident, like looking at sanitation and exclusion methods. By eliminating food sources from the property quickly they won’t want to be there. Also ensure to seal up any openings and consistently check door seals to keep pests on the outside.”

If you’re unsure of where to start, working with a pest management provider can reveal what pests are most likely lurking around your particular location

Technology is also playing a role in ensuring problems don’t escalate, with pest management providers utilising data to stay one step ahead. “By recording what pests we find, and when and where we find them, that information then shows us trends that we can use to get to an issue early,” says Hartzer. Valpas, a Finland-based company, is also helping to keep hotels free from critters with its automated bed bug safety system. Attaching to the legs of hotel beds, the device captures bed bugs inside an integrated trap before sending staff on-demand email and in-app notifications via a smart Bluetooth network to alert them of captured bugs.

If you’re unsure of where to start, working with a pest management provider can reveal what pests are most likely lurking around your particular location and when they’re most likely to appear. “Once you know what pests you may be more likely to attract and where they are coming from, you can put steps in place to mitigate that risk,” says Hartzer. “You should work in partnership to really put in place those preventative aspects so you can be proactive about it.”

Nicola Donovan is a travel writer for Click.

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