Tours Travel

When bed bugs check in, guests leave!

Bedbugs!!! Avoid this hotel! warns Hoteliers are finding that advertisements posted on popular travel review sites can be disastrous for business. A luxury hotel saw its five-star rating on Yahoo! Trips plummet a star overnight as guests reported sharing their bed with bed bugs. Increasingly, distraught guests whose sleep has been disturbed by the tiny blood-sucking pests are visiting hotels on Internet sites and filing lawsuits. is dedicated to traveler’s accounts of hotel bed bug attacks, complete with directions and maps. Concerned hoteliers feel unfairly trapped. While hotels have a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of their guests, it is often guests who bring bed bugs into a hotel.

Expert hitchhikers, bedbugs travel to hotel rooms in guests’ luggage and organize housekeeping. Bed bugs are annoying pests that feed on human blood. Difficult to spot, adults are reddish-brown and about the size of an apple seed, but nymphs are microscopic and nearly translucent. Although bed bugs do not transmit disease, their bites can cause itching, red welts, psychosomatic stress, and severe allergic reactions. When their original meal ticket goes out, bed bugs hide in or near crevices in beds, behind wall plates, inside clocks, and under rugs to wait for their next victim. They will crawl through electrical and plumbing ducts and air ducts in search of new prey, infecting adjacent rooms. Maids can inadvertently spread bedbugs all over the wing of the hotel on cleaning carts. It isn’t long before a few bed bugs develop into a major infestation.

Rising bed bug infestations in all 50 states led the US Environmental Protection Agency to declare a bed bug epidemic in April. Pest control companies have reported a 71% increase in bed bug complaints since 2001, according to a survey by the National Pest Control Association (NPMA). Hotel outbreaks have become so numerous that the NPMA and the American Hotel and Lodging Association are hosting a National Bed Bug Symposium on August 25 in New Jersey and August 27 in Seattle.

You don’t have to stay in a boarding house or shelter to encounter bed bugs. Bed bugs are equally prevalent in luxury hotels and respected national chains. “Just because a motel (looks) clean and expensive … doesn’t mean they don’t have bedbugs,” Derrick Bender, a faculty assistant at the University of Maryland Cumberland Extension Office, told the Cumberland Times-News . While staying at a $300-a-night luxury Annapolis hotel this summer, Bender and his wife were attacked by bedbugs.

Juries and judges have sided with bed bug victims when cases reach court. In the landmark 2003 case (Matthias v. Accor Economy Lodging), the Toronto brothers were awarded a $382,000 jury award against Motel 6 after sharing a room with bedbugs. In 2006, a Chicago couple sued a Catskills resort for $20 million, claiming that more than 500 bedbug bites left them with physical and mental scars. “I was miserable,” plaintiff Leslie Fox told the Associated Press. “My skin felt like it was on fire and I wanted to rip it off.” In 2007, New York opera star Allison Trainer sued the Hilton hotel chain for $6 million after suffering more than 100 bed bug bites at a Hilton Suites in Phoenix. “They were all over the bed, the duvet and the pillows, I took the sheets off and they were everywhere,” she told ABC News. In 2008, a guest at San Francisco’s Ramada Plaza Hotel was awarded a $71,000 settlement, the largest to date, after 400 bed bug bites left her with a disfiguring skin condition.

While some hoteliers have irresponsibly ignored guest complaints, in most cases the hotel was unaware that the room was infested when guests checked in. A 2008 lawsuit against the owners of the Milford Plaza hotel in Manhattan (Grogan v. Gamber Corp.) is expected to test the limits of hoteliers’ liability to their guests when bedbugs are present. A 2008 New York Supreme Court ruling allowed two Maryland tourists bitten by bedbugs during a 2003 stay to proceed with a $2 million negligence lawsuit against the hotel and its pest control contractor. A request for punitive damages was denied, and the court ruled that the hotel’s actions did not show “recklessness or a knowing disregard for the rights of others.” Three weeks before the Grogans checked in, the hotel’s pest control contractor was ordered to exterminate bed bugs in rooms near the room the Grogans later inhabited. At issue is whether the hotel and its pest control contractor should have considered the lifespan and migratory abilities of bed bugs when treating infected rooms and treating a larger area. The case has the potential to significantly increase a hotel’s responsibility to provide guests with safe and bedbug-free rooms.

“Those in the hospitality industry who still unintentionally use their unfortunate guests to monitor for bed bugs risk being found liable for significant damages in civil lawsuits,” warns Timothy Wenk, attorney at Shafer Glazer, LLP, a firm from New York. /New Jersey Civil Defense Company. Hotels need to be proactive in discovering bed bugs on their premises, not simply react to guest complaints. The EPA now recommends that hotels institute regular preventative inspections to find and treat bed bug infestations in their early stages. “In addition to consulting with pest control managers,” recommends Wenk, “hoteliers should consider using bed bug monitoring systems in their rooms. If hoteliers can demonstrate that they have implemented a monitoring system, then they can argue that they took reasonable and prudent measures to safeguard your guests from these bloodthirsty pests. Judges and juries must attach great importance to evidence of this kind.”

Several effective bed bug monitoring devices have recently appeared on the market. Each has unique strengths and capabilities, so it is advisable to consult a pest control professional before making a selection. Hotels that use bed bug detection dogs to identify bed bug activity should consider using bed bug monitors to guard against infestation between scheduled canine inspections.

o NightWatch from BioSensory, Inc. is the only of a new type of effective bed bug monitoring devices on the market. Extensively tested and vetted by Purdue University entomologists, it uses heat, CO2, and a pheromone lure to attract, trap, and kill bed bugs. It takes up little space and has a timer with an automatic “on” setting and a CO2 cartridge that lasts several days.

o Cimex Science’s CDC 3000 is a discreet, portable monitoring and capture device housed in a briefcase. Mimicking a human body, it attracts insects within a six foot radius, killing them with CO2, making it safe around children and pets. This monitor has a CO2 cartridge that lasts about eight hours.

o Silvandersson’s Bug Dome will soon be available from the Swedish company that developed the eco-friendly Cryonite bed bug remover. Using an attractant to attract bed bugs to replaceable glue traps, it plugs into any electrical outlet.

o MIDMOS’ BB Alert Active, available in Europe, should be coming to US markets soon. The little monitor uses replaceable packets of chemical attractant to lure the insects into a glue trap.

Hoteliers who fail to promptly control and eliminate bed bugs pay a devastating price in the form of negative media attention, legal fees, and loss of customer loyalty. It pays to be proactive to protect your guests – and your hotel – from these pesky pests.

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