Bed Bugs – What’s Your Code Word?

Bed Bugs Radiation SuitIt’s a busy weekend and your hotel is flourishing.  RevPar is at an all-time high and you’re on track to break more records this season.  Everything’s looking great for the hotel when a guest approaches the front desk to speak with a guest service agent and you hear the words “bed bugs”.  You need to act quickly and it’s a good thing your hotel has a plan in place to deal with bed bugs otherwise this situation could be a disaster.

Consequences of Bed Bugs

There are 2 areas of your hotel that will be most affected by the discovery of bed bugs in your hotel,

  1. Operation

Your hotel will be operating with at least one room out of order for at least one day and that’s the best case scenario.  If more rooms are infected you’ll face a greater loss in revenue.

  1. Reputation

If word of bed bugs in your hotel gets out then your hotel’s reputation will take a negative hit and this will have long term effects on the revenue and occupancy of your hotel.  Guests take bed bugs seriously and you do not want your hotel and bed bugs connected on social media and in online reviews.

How Do Hotels Get Bed Bugs?

Contrary to what many people think, bed bugs are no indication as to the cleanliness of a hotel.  I’d hazard a guess that every hotel in the world has had or, will have bed bugs at some point in time.  Bed bugs are transported by guests in their luggage and clothes but most commonly by guests who travel with their own pillows.  In fact, this is the reason why budget hostels do not allow guests to use their own pillows and sleeping bags.  Many low budget hostels even insist that guests store their pillows and sleeping bags in garbage bags while they’re staying at a hostel.  Hotel guests however, demand a certain level of privilege due to the rate they’re paying and are therefore allowed to use their own pillows during their stay.

Planning and Procedure

Here are some common procedures for dealing with bed bugs that hotels should include.  It’s not extensive and procedures will vary with each hotel but these are a good starting point,

  1. Code words.

The words “bed bugs” should never be heard within a hotel’s walls.  Management and staff should have a code word they use when talking about bed bugs so as to not alert guests and create panic.  Some suggestions include,

Water damage – “There’s water damage in room 302”

The Brady Family – “We need to organise an inspection of room 302 for the Brady Family”

Mr & Mrs Smith – “Mr & Mrs Smith are in room 302”

  1. Lockdown the room.

Take the room out of order along with all of the surrounding rooms.  That means the rooms on either side, across the hall, the rooms directly above and below.

  1. Have one staff member inspect the room.

This should be the highest ranked member of the housekeeping department.  Have them put on a change of clothes, wear gloves and covers over their shoes.

  1. Look for signs of bed bugs.

Things to look for include,

  • Blood stains on the sheets.
  • Fecal streaks from the bed bugs.
  • Check the mattress seams where bed bugs like to live.
  • Check headboards.
  • Check wall outlets.
  1. Put all linens and towels in dissolvable laundry bags and wash them.

All hotels should have a supply of dissolvable laundry bags.  These bags are sealed closed and dissolve when they reach a heat that kills any bed bugs inside, leaving clean linens and towels.  If any guests were in the infected room you should offer to put their clothes in a bag and wash them as well.

  1. Call pest control to inspect the room.

An exterminator needs to inspect the room and eliminate the bed bugs.  If bed bugs are found then the room will be out of order for a few days due to the chemicals used.  The exterminator will also need to inspect the surrounding rooms that were taken out of order.

  1. Comp the guest’s room!

Do not charge the guest for their stay.  Offer them any incentive necessary to keep them happy, even a complimentary stay in the future if need be.  Explain how bed bugs spread and make sure they understand that it’s not related to a hotel’s cleanliness.  Importantly, make sure the guest sees that you have a plan for bed bugs and clear procedures to follow.

Stay Up to Date

A contingency plan for bed bugs should be treated like your hotel’s fire and evacuation plan.  Not only should all new staff be educated on the procedures but you should be regularly checking that experienced staff continue to stay up to date and are confident in carrying out the plan of action should a bed bug incident arise.

Checking out,


Thanks for reading

  • Have you ever found bed bugs in your room while staying at a hotel?

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