Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

DPSI
// June 9, 2016

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Hotels and motels have a service model centralized around providing a clean bed and a safe and hospitable living space. When that service promise is compromised, their business and reputation is at stake. Bed bugs, while small in stature, can leave a lasting impression upon a guest and can bring about a costly claim, affecting any hotel no matter their ranking or regard.

USA Today reported a claim brought upon a well-regarded hotel due to the effects of bed bugs. The story was about a guest who filed suit against the hotel for $7 million after suffering the effects of bed bugs, accusing the hotel of “negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract.” The guest claimed the bed bugs outbreak resulted in her facing a strong allergic reaction (and needing medical services) and long-term anxiety. This claim didn’t come down to whether or not the room was exterminated, but rather a failure to uphold housekeeping practices—a basic expectation for hotels.

Other claims that have been filed for bed bugs have sought compensation for medical bills, new luggage and clothing, a home inspection and any treatment, lost wages, temporary lodging and pain and suffering. It is also common for claimants to suffer anxiety due to restless nights and itching, especially for those who travel frequently for work.

The following risk management techniques are geared specifically toward managing bed bugs but can more broadly be applied to hotel risk management best practices. Containing infestations and properly handling customer complaints are critical in reducing the impact on guests and the reputation of the hotel business. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, early detection is the best possible way to prevent a major infestation, so a commitment to meticulous housekeeping is essential.

Hotel staff members should all be trained on room inspections, including routine bed bug detection—how to search for them, how to recognize signs and how to respond when bed bugs are discovered. An ultra violet or LED flashlight can be used for better detection when searching couch, mattress and headboard crevices. Quarterly sweeps by specialty trained canines are especially thorough.

If bugs are found, the first step is to move the guests to a new room in a different section of the building (neighboring rooms are likely to be infested as well). The hotel staff should express empathy, accept fault and offer reassurance that bed bugs do not spread disease. In an effort to mitigate the customer’s pain, the hotel can offer dry cleaning services and a plastic bag to store luggage until treated. Once the guest is more at ease, the hotel should confirm that bed bugs are present and then take further action to exterminate.

Having a pro-active plan in place for bed bugs will help a hotel maintain its guests’ satisfaction. Committing to meticulous housekeeping, ensuring that a room is clean and ready for guests as well as handling customer complaints with empathy are essential best practices for any hotel.

Another important risk management tool for hotels and motels is ensuring they have the proper insurance for their business. Devon Park Specialty has a product specifically designed to protect hotel and motel owners from the liability and property hazards unique to their industry. In an effort to put your hotel or motel business to bed, our underwriters are happy to discuss a broad range of accounts, including franchised or independently-owned operations, properties with exterior or interior entrances or hotels with additional amenities.

Please contact your Devon Park Specialty underwriter for more information or a quote.

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As always, thank you for your support and business.

Molly_McsheaWritten by Molly McShea
June 9, 2016

Cheryl-RussellContact Cheryl Ryan,
Executive Vice President, Division Leader | 844-438-6775 Ext. 2582

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