How Do Hotels Prevent Bed Bugs? [+Pest Control Checklist]

Published on:
March 26, 2024
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Every hotel dreads the possibility of one hidden invader—bed bugs. They’re small and sneaky, and have been known to be easily spread via travel and high-traffic areas. And once they get in, they can be difficult to control if you don’t catch them fast. 

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In this article we’ll discuss the common issue of hotel bed bugs: 

  • What they are
  • How they happen
  • How to check for them
  • How to get rid of them
  • How to prevent them 
  • Handling guest complaints

We’ll also provide a free hotel pest control checklist to help you take proactive measures to protect your hotel against pest infestations like bed bugs.

For more insights and resources to improve your hotel, visit our Ultimate Hotel Operations Management Guide.

Recommended Resources:

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are tiny, oval-shaped insects that tend to hide in groups within furniture, especially bed frames, mattresses, and box springs.

They typically choose to colonize in bedding because these insects are attracted to warmth, consume blood, and bedding locations are ideal for nightly feedings. Bed bug bites will typically appear like small welts on the skin and cause severe itching in most people.

Hotel Bed Bug Inspection

For hotels, bed bugs are one of the biggest threats to a positive guest experience. Comprehensive hotel maintenance management solutions can help address this by ensuring a clean and pest-free environment. Improper bed bug control can lead to negative reviews that reduce future bookings, and in the end decrease revenue. It is important that hoteliers take bed bugs seriously and don't fall into the false self-belief that "it could never happen to us".

How do hotels get bed bugs?

Bed bugs have been known to hide out in the cracks and crevices of luggage and textiles, so they’re easy to spread via travel.

This is one of the reasons they’ve become so prevalent in hotels, motels, and rental properties. When a guest unknowingly picks up these unwanted travelers and takes their luggage to an unaffected property, the bed bugs quickly sneak out and take up residence in the nearest hiding place where they can score a meal. 

No property is immune to bed bugs and all must take precaution with regular inspections

A bed bug infestation typically takes about 2 months to fully manifest from the point they sneak in.

This is because a true infestation happens when the bed bugs are reproducing and insects in every stage of the lifecycle are present in a location. The situation can be made somewhat harder if an egg-bearing female is present amongst the hitchhikers and lays her eggs quickly, but it still takes time for the eggs to hatch and the insects to mature. 

The problem is that bed bugs are so small and stealthy that they can often go unnoticed during this 2 month period. Before you know it, you have an infestation on your hands. That’s why it’s important to be regularly checking your property for pests, to ensure infestations are properly prevented and planned for. 

How to check for bed bugs in hotels

Checking for bed bugs can be as simple as looking closely at your bedding materials, mattresses, headboards, and box springs to check for signs of their presence on a regular basis. Signs of bed bugs might include: 

  • Small reddish-brown or rust-colored stains on bedding materials 
  • The presence of live or dead bed bugs presented by tiny, typically brown, wingless bugs 
  • Groups of tiny dark spots indicating bed bug fecal matter that may smear when wiped down with a damp rag
  • Tiny opaque, tan or pale yellow casings that may indicate hatched egg shells or discarded skins from their growth phases
Hotel Bed Bug Furniture to Inspect

Conduct regular visual inspections and use bed bug tests to validate any signs of infestation

The first step in checking for bed bugs is to educate your staff to ensure everyone knows what to be on the lookout for, especially housekeepers.

You may even want to create a standard protocol for regularly checking rooms for these pests, especially if you’ve dealt with an infestation previously. You can create a checklist for pest inspection that includes standard procedures around inspecting a room for bed bugs to track the process and create a log of inspections and results. 

If there are any signs of bed bugs, properties should temporarily close the room and use a bed bug test kit to validate the suspicion. If bed bugs are found, call an exterminator and make arrangements to replace any contaminated furniture.

How do hotels get rid of bed bugs?

Hotel Bed Bug Elimination
Eric Andre Show via Giphy

Methods of Elimination 

There are several methods for getting rid of bed bugs, but one of the most effective is utilizing temperature to kill them.

Heating or freezing materials can eliminate these insects.

Some pest control companies offer bed bug heating services or you can even rent a bed bug heater from a service yourself. You might also decide to use chemical methods via a pest elimination company, but this can often be a more disruptive means of elimination. 

Timeline for Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

The efficacy and time it takes for whatever treatment you utilize will depend on the severity of the infestation, but generally bed bugs can be gone in around 2 - 4 treatment sessions over a period of 3 - 6 weeks.

You may think of just throwing everything out of a room that’s affected by bed bugs and replacing it, but typically it’s easier and more cost-effective to treat furniture and areas for bed bugs rather than replacing everything in a room. Additionally if you simply throw out the furniture, you’re risking spreading the bed bugs to other people and places. 

How to Get Started 

Hotel Bed Bug Prevention Guide

The first step in getting rid of bed bugs is to create a plan of action:

  1. Select a means of elimination: temperature elimination, chemical extermination, steaming, etc. 
  2. Work with local experts to determine a timeline for elimination based on the level of your infestation and the type of elimination method you’ve chosen 
  3. Send out any necessary communications to staff and guests the elimination plan may affect
  4. Schedule treatments and make plans to work around affected rooms or close your rooms or property altogether 

As you’re working through this, be realistic with yourself and your team about timelines and plan accordingly—being prepared for the worst case scenario is better than having to face another infestation later down the road! It’s better to take the time necessary for treatment and elimination then have the problem spread further or pop back up in 2 months. 

How to handle bed bug complaints from guests

It’s important to prepare your staff for the potential of guests bringing a bed bug complaint to your hotel’s attention, even if your property has never had a history with bed bugs.

It’s all part of a good risk prevention plan. Ensure that your team knows to treat the guest with empathy and that they can answer some common questions or concerns that may come up with this topic. 

Hotel Bed Bug Guest Complaints
Young Sheldon via Giphy

You can create a Q&A sheet on bed bugs that’s on hand for guest complaints. That will help your staff answer questions like if bed bugs transmit diseases (according to the CDC, they don’t) or if guests could potentially end up taking these pests home with them (they can, but there are preventative measures that can be taken to ensure they don’t). 

Hotel Staff must empathize with guest and offer an upgrade or a refund to rectify situation

To ensure that guests don’t spread these pests or take bed bugs home with them, they should be advised to dry their clothes and textiles on the hottest setting for 20 - 30 minutes to kill any pests that might be hiding in the fabric. You can also offer to steam or vacuum their luggage to help eliminate any hitchhikers, and further advise guests not to bring their luggage into sleeping quarters when they return home and instead keep them in a garage or basement until it can be properly inspected to be sure there aren’t still pests. 

Additionally, you can offer upgrades or refunds to help rectify the inconvenience and discomfort of the situation. Helping the guest to find other accommodations may be necessary as well, and it can go a long way toward restoring trust and resolving anger. 

Can Guests sue a Hotel for Bed Bugs?

If a bed bug infestation causes a guest enough discomfort or inconvenience, they may choose to sue your property, and this is within their legal rights. Oftentimes when a guest sues a hotel for bed bugs, hotel insurance will make an effort to settle with the guest to cover any damages to their property, their investment in accommodations, or physical damages resulting from encountering bed bugs. 

Baskets via Giphy

Small settlements could be anywhere from $200 - $800, which may not impact your hotel quite so drastically. But some hotel bed bug settlements have been as high as $15,000. That’s why it’s so important to have a pest prevention plan in place and a clearly planned course of action for the potential of pests being identified at your property. 

How to prevent bed bugs in hotel rooms

To prevent bed bugs at your hotel, incorporate bed bug checks in your housekeeping protocols. Explore hotel maintenance services and best practices to ensure your property remains free of pests and other issues. Making a purposeful effort to conduct regularly scheduled bed bug checks will help you to catch infestations early if they pop up and aid in overall prevention. Ensure that rooms are regularly cleaned and that housekeepers know what to keep an eye out for to identify bed bugs, too, that way even if they’re not intentionally looking for them they know to flag any suspicious signs as soon as they see them. 

In case of litigation, it can be helpful to have an audit trail of pest control inspections. This will help prove that your property is doing everything that it can to prevent bed bug issues. Using a digital solution, like Xenia, makes audit trails and preventive maintenance easy and organized so that hoteliers can focus on driving revenue. Discover the top free hotel preventive maintenance software to streamline your operations and enhance guest satisfaction.

Free Hotel Pest Control Checklist

To get you started with a plan around pest control, we’ve included a free, downloadable hotel pest control template. Simply download the template below to start using it to create or improve your pest control initiatives. 

Checklists allow you to easily communicate tasks around specific protocols with your team, that way everyone knows exactly what to look for every time. You can utilize digital checklists to make them even more accessible to your staff, too. Leverage preventive maintenance checklist software for hotels to optimize your inspection and maintenance processes efficiently.

Xenia: One App to Manage your Facilities and your Frontline

Xenia goes beyond pest control with a full suite of tools to help simplify, track, and manage every area of hotel operations. The software contains individual and group messaging, built-in analytics, checklists and inspection tools, maintenance features, and more. Check out the list below:

  • Guest Request Management
  • Housekeeping Management
  • Team Accountability
  • Quality and Safety Inspections
  • Team Communication
  • Custom Checklist Builder
  • SOP Template Library
  • Preventive Maintenance Management
  • Inspections and Audits
  • Asset Tracking
  • Work Order Management
  • Lost and Found

Xenia checklists make it easy to create and enforce standard operating procedures and inspection protocols, simplifying quality assurance and brand standard adherence across individual properties and entire portfolios. The system’s PM and work order tools ensure your maintenance team has everything they need to track fixes on the go and log asset information for a clear understanding of asset health. Plus the software features all the internal communication features you could need to encourage collaboration, increase autonomy, and decrease miscommunication. Managers are able to message team members one on one, create chat groups for departments and teams, and even announce organization-wide news and updates via a public feed, anywhere, anytime.

With Xenia, you and your team will be able to track and manage property assets and analyze detailed analytics reports on everything from inspections and maintenance to room cleanings and task assignments, allowing you to spot patterns quickly and make long-term improvements. And to top it all off, Xenia is fully flexible and customizable, so you can tailor your digital experience to fit the way you work.

Using a flexible hotel optimization tool like Xenia allows you and your team to work through digital hotel checklists directly from your individual mobile devices, so you can track, manage, and complete pest control checks on the go. To learn more about what Xenia can do for your hotel, check out our website and schedule a free demo now! 

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