Bed Bug Travel Trends
by Kit Bernardi
Summer is a prime travel season for your customers, and bed bugs. Recent research shows that rising temperatures boost bed bug populations, increase the number of reported bed bug incidents and escalate operational costs for hoteliers to eradicate the nocturnal parasitic pest.
The Bugs Without Borders 2018 survey conducted by the Professional Pest Management Alliance, the public outreach division of the National Pest Management Association, names summer as the biggest season nationwide for bed bug service calls with 97 percent of pest professionals surveyed reporting an overall increase in remediation during warmer months. Hotels ranked third as the most common housing suffering infestations, after single-family homes and apartment and condominium complexes.
Data collected from pest control companies nationwide in the recent Bed Bug Activity Survey conducted by BedBug Central, a public information resource on bed bug-related issues and host of the annual North American Bed Bug Summit, substantiated this summer season outbreak pattern. Monthly remediation reports submitted by survey participants also revealed an emerging bed bug travel trend suggesting the blood-sucking insects are settling out West.
In June, 2018, Pest Control Technology’s website published an interview with Jeffrey White, BedBug Central’s technical director and host of BedBug TV. White said that pest control companies east of the Mississippi, where historically bed bug activity was strongest, were experiencing “a very slow start as opposed to companies west of the river.” He suggested that bed bug communities may still be establishing themselves in the nation’s western regions.
“Ten years ago the Northeast experienced this initial explosion of bed bug populations and perhaps some of the regions west of the Mississippi are just now dealing with that initial explosion,“ said White.
The insurance industry has also documented increased bed bug incidents. In 2017, The Global Claims Review: Liability in Focus report generated by worldwide insurance company Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty noted the number of bed bug bite and infestation claims at 21 percent or 397 claims, second only to deer-auto claims in the animal incidents category.
To be sure, the risk of bed bug infestation keeps hoteliers up at night. The Bedbug Registry’s free public database website tracking bed bug reports and complaints has mapped since 2006 approximately 20,000 bed bug incidents in the U.S. and Canada at 40 hotel chains and residential buildings that rent units. Although reports filed directly by the traveling public are unverified, independent properties and hotel brands listed online face potential lost bookings and public relations nightmares.
Orkin Pest Control’s 2017 Hospitality Industry Report, Behind The Cost of Bed Bugs, surveyed 100 diverse U.S. hotels of all sizes and market sectors to calculate just how big of a bite bed bugs take out of hoteliers’ profits.
Here are some disconcerting findings:
The total cost per bed bugs incident costs hoteliers $6,383, covering bed bug remediation, soft goods replacement and rooms revenue lost. A single property deals with an average of 7.1 bed bug infestations over five years.
Survey respondents reported an average of $17,177 per bed bugs case spent in litigation. Bed bug treatment plus litigation costs averages $23,560 per incident.
Approximately 98 percent of hotels institute at least one ongoing bed bug prevention program which could include rigorous staff training, specialists’ visual inspections, mattress-pillow encasements, pest company contracts and canine team inspections. Clearly, the lodging industry can’t afford not to institute pro-active, rigorous bed bug prevention protocols.