3 steps to prevent bedbugs from checking in with guests

It’s no secret that the 2022 summer travel season will be busy. According to a recent survey by the online travel resource the Vacationer, 80 percent (280 million) of Americans plan to travel this summer. As hotel and lodging facilities prepare for what will likely be the busiest travel season since 2019, the last thing these businesses need is to have operations halted due to a costly bedbug infestation.

Like guests, bedbugs love to travel. As expert hitchhikers, bedbugs attach to luggage, personal belongings and clothing to travel to different locations. With a constant flow of people and high guest turnover, hotels and lodging facilities are more susceptible to bed bug infestations.

Once introduced, bedbug infestations can spark negative brand backlash that often can be more damaging than the already costly repairs. According to a study by the University of Kentucky, “a single report of bedbugs in recent traveler reviews can reduce room revenue by $23 to $38 per room per night for business and leisure travelers.”

The best line of defense is to establish a multilayered strategy before the first pest is even spotted. During a time when labor shortages run high, a pre-established plan and a little extra training for housekeepers can help keep even short-handed businesses one step ahead of these unwanted guests. Hotel owners and lodging managers can use these three steps to build an action plan and better protect employees, guests and their business. 

Rentokil North America bed bug infographic

Step One: Adjust Operations to Support Proactive Protection

Without knowing, many common day-to-day operations can actually set the stage for bedbug introductions. With a few easy adjustments, hotel staff can reduce the risk of these pesky pests spreading throughout the facility. 

When establishing a plan, assess day-to-day facility operations and identify likely methods of introduction and high-risk areas. High-risk areas like guestrooms, seating areas, laundry rooms, break rooms and storage areas should be monitored daily. Additional proactive measures to incorporate into daily or weekly operations include: 

  1. Thoroughly inspect all products and goods coming into the facility including packages and supplies. Establish a quarantine process for any items suspected of bedbug activity.
  2. Conduct regular monitoring of areas that may be easily overlooked, such as locker areas and lost and found items.
  3. Restrict where personal belongings can be placed or stored (handbags, backpacks, etc.) to minimize introduction points.
  4. Clear out clutter to reduce hiding places.
  5. Seal cracks where bedbugs can hide, especially in high-risk areas.

Ensure every staff member is aware of the action plan and steps to take if a bedbug problem is suspected. Include a contact sheet that identifies who employees should call as soon as a problem is spotted. Set a reminder to review the plan quarterly and make adjustments as needed.  

Step Two: Outsmart the Pest with Early Detection

Bedbugs are small, varying between the size of a grain of rice and an apple seed, and can be extremely hard to spot. Training housekeepers on the common bedbug hiding spots can help prevent a potential widespread infestation through early detection. When cleaning rooms, train staff to inspect these key areas:

  1. Mattress, box spring and frame. Examine sheets for small fecal spots, or bedbug droppings. On fabric, they look like someone touched the surface with a black Sharpie. Carefully inspect the mattress and box spring seams, creases, edges, folds, tufts and areas around zippers and tags for shed skin and bugs. Lift up the mattress to inspect the underneath side, as well as the slats, rails and platform corners of the bed frame.
  2. Headboard. Inspect any cracks, crevices, edges and in any intricate designs. Pull the headboard away from the wall to examine the wall and backside of the headboard. 
  3. Floor and baseboard covering. Scan the floor, especially carpet, and baseboard coverings underneath the bed and along the frame of the room.
  4. Upholstered seating. Carefully examine throw pillows, particularly zipper areas, and check the seams, edges and folds along furniture crevices and inside cushion covers of sofas and chairs. Don’t forget any removable lids of ottomans or stools.
  5. Closet. Inspect the closet floor and the entire luggage stand, especially where the webbing wraps around the frame.
  6. Wardrobes and dressers. Open doors and drawers and inspect along the seals. Look closely at furniture joints. Check the floor where furniture and carpet meet, looking for live or dead insects and droppings.
  7. Nightstands and wall fixtures. Similar to dressers, examine drawers and furniture cracks and crevices. Open and shake any books that may be in the drawers. Observe the edges, backside and underneath lamps, picture frames, alarm clocks or other decorative items and fixtures. 
  8. Outlets and air vents.  Monitor any area where outlets, power cords and air vents are present. Bedbugs can wedge themselves into spaces thinner than credit card thickness, so look along the edges of outlets and the sockets for any signs.

Step Three: Establish a Relationship with a Trusted Pest Control Expert

Bedbugs can be repelled when certain pesticides are released, crawling into hiding spaces beyond the problem area. This further necessitates the need for an established partnership with a pest management provider who can help develop a customized strategic plan based on the business’s unique needs.

The sooner a bedbug issue is identified, the more likely it is to be resolved quickly and effectively while keeping costs manageable for the business. 

Eric Braun is technical services manager at Rentokil North America.