As hotels across the country welcome guests again and travel and tourism return, hotels are making renewed efforts to protect their guests, employees and businesses from the risks of COVID-19. However, hotels must be careful not to lose sight of another insidious risk: given the heightened sensitivity of the COVID-19 pandemic, a single bed bug sighting can ruin a hotel’s reputation, and the presence of these pests creates the risk of costly litigation also.
Guests who return with higher standards of cleanliness
The COVID-19 crisis has made the public aware of the health risks posed by public and common spaces such as hotels. There is also increased public awareness of the importance of basic cleanliness in reducing these health risks. Before the pandemic 78% of the guests I thought cleanliness was the most influential factor in the hotel guest’s experience. As guests gradually return to hotels over the coming months, they return with even higher standards of cleanliness.
A single bed bug sighting could be disastrous
Guests are instinctively repelled by pests. Whether consciously or unconsciously, a pest detection calls into question the cleanliness and safety of the entire hotel. Bed bug sightings have always been a major reputational risk for hotels. With the potential for a guest review or photo posted on social media to go viral in minutes, a hotel’s reputation is particularly at risk. In the middle of what is perhaps the most challenging time in the lodging industry in history, hotels cannot afford to risk their reputation.
Costly litigation is the newest bed bug risk
If your hotel has a bed bug incident, you are already grappling with the high cost of treating the problem and the potential ongoing costs of reputational damage. Now there’s a new risk to consider: bed bug disputes. Building on established cases of tenants who received more than $ 1 million in damages More and more hotel guests are suing hotels by landlords who have been deemed negligent, claiming negligent practices have led to bed bug incidents. According to The Bantam Group, nearly half of all hotels have already faced litigation related to bed bug infestations and hotels have been held liable for them up to $ 500,000 in damages.
Do you meet the legal standard of “due diligence”?
Many states are now creating specific laws regarding bed bugs and the lodging industry. However, legal experts point out that every state already has property liability laws in place that state that hotels can be held liable if the so-called “due diligence” standard is not adhered to. In other words, hotels can be held liable if a lawyer can prove that the hotel management was negligent. For example, hotels fail to meet due diligence requirements when renting rooms, knowing bed bugs are present, using DIY treatments instead of hiring a professional pest control partner (PMP), or failing to follow PMP recommendations for treatment and / or when the room should be released for occupancy.
Proactive prevention: no bed bugs, no litigation risk
By showing that your hotel is taking proactive, preventive measures to stop bed bugs, you can take the law on your side in the event of a guest lawsuit. But even if a court rules in your favor or the case is dismissed, there are still significant costs involved: The same report from The Bantam Group found that the average bed bug lawsuit costs a hotel around $ 20,000. Herein lies the greater benefit of proactive bed bug prevention: It’s the best way to avoid a lawsuit – and the best way to mitigate serious guest health and reputational risks.
Applying the lessons learned from the pandemic to bed bug control
Hotels are rightly focused on managing the COVID-19 risks. They improve cleaning and disinfection protocols to welcome guests back while reducing the risk of infection. But you also need to be careful that this new threat doesn’t completely overshadow the much better known remaining risks. Fortunately, many of the principles of successful infection prevention apply to helping hotels fight pests – and the insidious risk of bed bugs in particular: be comprehensive, meticulous, and most importantly, do everything possible to prevent this problem from getting from the root of the problem.
Download the new Ecolab Industry Report to learn more about how your hotel can be more proactive and preventative against bed bugs:
4 Strategies To Combat The Risk And Additional Costs Of Hotel Bed Bug Incidents