Outdoor areas require proactive pest-control approach

Within the industry’s playbook of pandemic-survival tactics, hotel owners and operators have made greater use of their properties’ outdoor spaces to create revenue-producing guest experiences. Coupled with that is the challenge of ensuring those experiences don’t have any uninvited guests flying, buzzing, slithering, scampering or walking onto the scene in the form of various pests.

“My team and I have had to pick up snakes and take them back down to the pond area [and we’ve] shooed away geese, fox, deer, opossum, raccoon, etc.,” said industry veteran Cynthia Zamora, chief engineer at the 298-room Greensboro (N.C.)-High Point Marriott Airport, which is situated on 17 acres and includes the 1,800-square-foot Saura Gardens for outdoor weddings and social events. She noted the pest-control provider for the property, which is operated by Hospitality Ventures Management Group, currently only takes care of the hotel’s interior; however, she and her team take a proactive approach and walk the heavily landscaped property three to four times daily to assess any potential pest problems that may arise.

Interestingly, that walk is similar to one of the pillars that supports integrated pest management, a system the pest-control industry is embracing as “an extremely effective approach to controlling and preventing pests that damage property, contaminate food and impact human health,” according to Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist and SVP of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association, a 90-year-old organization with approximately 5,000 member companies in the United States, Canada and other countries.

“IPM is a common-sense way for a commercial business to address its pest problems,” said Fredericks, and focuses on three basic techniques: inspecting for pests, identifying pests and treatment by pest-control professionals. Additionally, the approach is not an immediate jump to a toxic-chemical solution, a method of concern for many hoteliers in terms of liability.

“Life safety would be one of the first topics to discuss” with a pest-control professional," said Marsaydius Royal, area director of engineering at the SpringHill Suites Atlanta Downtown, which uses its outdoor space for social events. “One goal is to ensure chemicals that will be used won’t pose a threat.”

Toward this, the HVMG-operated property took measures to control ants in its 565 square feet of outdoor space. “Proper disposal of food in this area helped with pest activity [and] repellents were our choice to treat the pest. The result was win/win. Our guests experienced minimal impact due to our team identifying the source and addressing [it] quickly,” said Royal, noting that a property walk by engineering is done twice daily and any “pest sighting will be logged [and] our pest-control company will be notified.”

Customized Solutions

Fredericks stressed that pest-control professionals do not use a “one-size-fits-all” approach, particularly with IPM, which would assess recommendations based on a hotel’s unique needs.

“Whether sealing cracks, removing a food or water source or employing product treatments, integrated pest management is about finding the best options to get rid of pest-associated problems,” he said.

And because it is a customized and comprehensive approach to pest control, IPM’s solutions and components can vary. 

“Essentially,”  said Fredericks, “IPM is a holistic way to approach pest control that carefully considers: 

  • Preventing pests by eliminating pest food, water and access to structures (or other harborage areas);
  • Monitoring pest populations (which requires skill in pest identification and knowledge regarding pest biology and behaviors);
  • Control techniques that minimize exposure to people, pets and the environment and; 
  • Client communication and cooperation, which may include behavior modification or changes to operating procedures or capital investments to eliminate pest entry points.”

While IPM appears to be a significant solution for outdoor hotel spaces when it comes to pest control, how it all gets done depends on the process being more of a partnership as opposed to just a one-sided service contract.

“A significant component of a successful IPM program is the relationship between the pest-control professional and the hotel management and staff,” said Fredericks. “A comprehensive program should include a careful inspection and subsequent recommendations for hotel staff regarding outdoor areas. Often, landscaping and sanitation changes can have significant impacts on pest pressures in outdoor spaces. For instance, rodents are attracted to human foods, so ensuring that outdoor trash receptacles are emptied and cleaned frequently is essential. (This can also impact fly and stinging-insect activity.)” 

In addition, he noted low-lying ground cover—often used by hotels for curb appeal and along pathways—could provide habitat for ground-nesting rats. “Eliminating these harborage places can make the outdoor environment less-hospitable to pests,” said Fredericks.

Similarly, he noted there are many options for managing so-called pest birds via deterrence.

“Many options can be integrated into existing architecture seamlessly or in a visually appeal-ing way,” said Fredericks, noting “These types of improvements can be labor intensive and are often best implemented as part of the building planning or renovation process. Consulting with your pest-control provider as part of the landscape design process can have a positive impact on reducing future pest infestations.” 

Getting everyone on board at a property also is a key component of IPM.

“Staff training provided by a pest-control company can be employed as an effective way to communicate changes to hotel operating procedures and will foster a relationship of trust between the pest-control provider and hotel staff,” observed Fredericks. “Pest control is a partnership that relies on all parties working together toward a common pest-free environment.”