How to Get Over a Pest Infestation at Your Hotel
By Frank Meek, International Technical & Training Director, Orkin, LLC
Holiday season is officially upon us, and your lobbies soon will be swarming with guests visiting family and friends or ringing in the New Year. Amidst the tinsel and holly, your hotel can make a crucial impression on these out-of-towners. A good impression is imperative - not only will these guests spend the next few days sharing stories around the holiday table, but they will take these impressions back home with them. Every nuance will be brought up later at a family reunion and then blogged, tweeted or texted. Their experience will travel and no doubt make an impression on others. In fact, nearly 40 percent of consumers make travel decisions based on the opinions of friends, colleagues or relatives.
So, if a guest's lasting memories of your hotel are bouts with bed bugs or run-ins with rodents, it's easy to imagine negative buzz quickly spiraling out of control - not to mention concerns about health risks and costly damage to property stemming from pest infestations. Moreover, because pests can breed and multiply quickly, a pest emergency can rapidly turn into a crisis situation that could be detrimental to your hotel's reputation and credibility.
Fortunately, if you take the right steps, these pest incursions can be remedied and even prevented. Below are three simple steps to take if a pest is spotted at your hotel, as well as some preventive measures to help avoid a pest situation all together and ensure guests return home happy.
Step One: Confine and Assess the Situation
When you encounter a pest situation, the first step is to confine the issue. If you spot an infestation in one part of the hotel, if possible, restrict access to that area to keep the problem from spreading. If there are employees or guests in the space, move occupants to a new area until the pests are removed and the area is thoroughly cleaned.
Once you've identified the problem, attempt to determine how widespread it has become by looking for signs of pest presence in surrounding areas. Then, assess if there are any measures you can put into place immediately to stop the infestation from spreading - whether that means cleaning up a spill that is attracting ants in the kitchen, or moving a dumpster away from the establishment and closing the lid tightly to keep rodents away. Remember, although you should try to contain the problem immediately, do not attempt to treat the pest issue by yourself. The best course of action is always to call a licensed pest management provider who understands pest biology and behavior and can determine the correct treatment for the problem at hand that will not interrupt your guests' stay.
Next, inspect any back-of-house areas, such as laundry rooms, receiving areas or in-house restaurant kitchens, for signs of infestation. When receiving any deliveries, inspect shipments for droppings, gnaw marks, or live or dead pests. If you do find any contaminated materials, be sure to bag them up for proper disposal and take them immediately to the dumpster.
Step Two: Work with a Pest Management Professional
Once your licensed pest control provider (either within the company or an outside professional) arrives on-site, work with them to identify the pest in question, assess the source of the problem and initiate the best treatment plan. Often, home remedies and Do It Yourself (DIY) products can actually intensify the problem by spreading it to another area of the hotel. By letting a professional determine the source of the problem, rather than just getting rid of the pests themselves, you can avoid spreading the infestation unnecessarily. Just like us humans, pests will often check-in to your hotel to access three basic needs: food, water, and shelter.
Consult with your pest management professional once the issue is under control to get tips on how to prevent the problem from happening again. A strong partnership between you, your staff and your pest management professional will ensure you manage future issues as quickly and effectively as possible.
Step Three: Be Transparent
The third - and arguably most important - step to successfully handling a pest management crisis is to be transparent. Communication between everyone who could potentially be affected by the pest issue is key. Generally there are two primary audiences you want to educate about a pest situation:
- Internal - Employees: It is best to start by educating internal audiences about the issue. Make sure all employees, even those not directly affected, understand that you are taking steps to treat the problem. If approached by media, this audience can influence how the news is presented externally, so make sure everyone is clearly educated on the situation and how it is being handled.
- External - Guests and Conference Planners: Although it may seem like you wouldn't want people outside your company to learn about a pest issue, you should take proactive steps to communicate your message before rumors spread. Consumers respond more positively to companies that practice open and honest communications versus trying to cover up problems.
The media can quickly get wind of a negative pest situation in your hotel and blow it out of proportion. By educating these primary audiences, you have created front-line ambassadors that can field phone calls or e-mails from concerned guests and set the facts straight.
Above all, don't be embarrassed to admit a problem - the best thing you can do when a crisis strikes is to acknowledge the issue and immediately seek assistance from a pest management professional. Remember, the sooner you can identify the source of the pest issue, the quicker and easier the eradication will be.
If you haven't already, consult with your pest management professional about implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. This is an environmentally friendly approach that provides a long-term pest prevention solution for your hotel. IPM identifies the reasons pests enter your hotel in the first place (food, water and shelter) and takes steps to eliminate these items before they attract pests. This process helps to reduce pesticide usage by instead relying on preventive measures, including sanitation and facility maintenance. Below are a few examples of these proactive measures, which you and your staff can use to prevent pests:
- Clean: Regular vacuuming, sweeping and mopping will help remove dust, debris and food particles that can attract pests. It does not take much to feed these pests.
- Organize: Throw out empty boxes and extra paper, and avoid bringing items inside that may harbor pests, such as cardboard boxes.
- Reduce Food and Water Sources: Contact maintenance to repair leaky sinks, ice or vending machines. Routinely perform a deep cleaning underneath appliances, tables and other furniture to remove debris in hard to reach places. A biological cleaner can help eliminate residual grease and grime collected in floor drains.
- Remove Trash: Line trash cans to prevent accumulation of moisture, also making it easier to keep trash cans clean, and use lids to reduce odors that may attract pests. Remove trash regularly and dispose of garbage in a dumpster as far from the hotel as possible. Regular trash pick-up and upkeep of the areas near your dumpster can help keep cockroaches at bay.
- Seal Entry Points: Partner with your maintenance experts to identify and seal any cracks in your hotel's windows, ceilings, walls and floors with weather-resistant sealant. Use door sweeps, window screens and weather stripping as protective barriers to prevent pests from crawling inside.
- Trim Landscaping: Vegetation, including plants and mulch, can serve as housing for pests. Keep foliage at least three feet from the hotel façade and avoid planting ground-covering plants, such as ivy, that can shelter pests. Talk to your pest management professional about landscaping that may be less attractive to pests.
- Sweep Parking Lots: Sidewalks and parking lots can collect rainwater and trash left by passersby, both of which can attract pests. Regularly sweep and hose down common walking areas to remove debris. Also remove standing water that may pool underneath air conditioning units located outside your hotel.
- Monitor Storage: Protect your hotel from stealthy invaders like cockroaches by checking boxes for pests and signs of pest activity before you accept shipments of food, linens or other materials. Since the glue in cardboard boxes can be a food source for cockroaches, empty and dispose of unused boxes promptly.
Finally, don't forget - you are the hotelier; therefore, you are in control. Make sure you take these steps when a crisis occurs, or even better, as preventive measures to protect your hotel and your reputation. Stay calm and remember that with a plan, pests are no match for your hotel.
An industry veteran, Frank Meek has been with Orkin since 1986. In 2003, he was named among the future leaders of the pest management industry in Pest Control Technology magazine’s “40 Under 40” ranking. Currently, as the International Technical and Training Director, Mr. Meek provides technical support and training in both sales and service to Orkin's international franchises, helping them grow and develop in their specific markets. As a board-certified entomologist, Mr. Meek teaches Integrated Pest Management principles and can explain how to use all available methodologies to prevent pest infestations in various commercial settings. Mr. Meek can be contacted at 404-888-2898 or email@example.com Extended Bio...
HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.