Pest Control procedures in Hotels
Pest control is vital in all walks of life, but very few industries require reasonable pest control as much as the hotel industry. With guests coming and going on a regular basis, and food being served literally from dusk ‘til dawn (and maybe even longer), hotels can be hotspots for pests. In this article, we discuss the importance of the pest control procedure in the hotel industry and some of the jobs we had to deal with, and the methods of pest control within the context of a hotel.
The importance of pest control in hotel premises
Hotels are unique establishments. Unlike other businesses, entertainment venues, or restaurants, hotels never “close.” Guests at a hotel are there at all hours of the day; whether it’s 2 pm or 5 am, there are staff and members of the public on-site 24/7. Hotels are places where people eat and where they sleep. For this reason, it opens them up to even more liability than other establishments such as restaurants or offices.
Having a problem with pests can affect the very core of a hotel as a business. The cost of repairing the damage caused can be a financial burden, and once a reputation of having pests has been established, it’s hard to win back customers. Additionally, having pests is a violation of health and safety codes, meaning hotels could face hefty fines and even risk closure. Therefore, pests are no small issue and must be treated incredibly seriously.
Mice in the hotel industry are likely to cause problems in food preparation areas, storage rooms where the laundry is kept, and in the guest bedrooms that may suffer sightings or droppings. Rats can be a massive problem in the back-of-house and backyard areas, especially around the bins, and if there is a large-items collection area that is not cleared for a long time. Then, we have the dreaded bed bugs that can come at any time with any new guests and contaminate any bedrooms. Finally, we have the flies that can take advantage of favorable conditions to multiply and become a nuisance, as well as a risk and safety hazard to customers.
Pest control in hotel and housekeeping
The housekeeping department is the most critical and also the most likely point of failure. A dirty hotel is definitely going to get it bad one way or the other. That much is obvious. But a good housekeeping team that is untrained to identify and report evidence of pest issues is equally as bad. Pest control in hotel training should focus on recognising rodent droppings or damage, as well as leaks or blood on bedsheets. The housekeeping supervisor should reinforce the importance of the pest control procedure in hotel structures with a hotel pest control checklist at the beginning of every shift.
Most larger hotels would normally rely on housekeeping subcontractors with teams that may vary over time. There is the added difficulty of the language barrier, with some of the housekeepers who may have only limited English skills. Therefore, it can become very handy to have a few pictures that can be displayed during their introduction as what needs looking for and reporting. Also, think of the housekeeping trolley containing soiled bedsheets. If such a trolley would ever get contaminated, it may actually contribute to spreading bed bugs further.
I came across some kind of Airbnb/hotel in Aldwych that had the worst case of bed bugs hotel room infestation I had seen. They had an Ottoman bed that made it more challenging. I first removed all the slats and then steamed them thoroughly. Then I carried out the full bed bug heat treatment and sprayed thoroughly afterward. But the worst of it was that none of the housekeepers had ever reported anything. It had taken one customer complaining from bites and lifting the mattress to see the full scale of it. Can you sue a hotel for bed bugs in such circumstances? I am afraid you may be able to bring a claim on the ground that the hotel management failed to carry out its due diligence.
Three examples of hotel pest control services we provided
In some instances, a pest control problem can be exacerbated by an inefficient pest control procedure on the hotel grounds or sometimes because of the lack of understanding from hotel management. So it is essential to get the right type of pest control program.
Rats in hotels
A hotel in Marylebone suffering from a very high level of rat activity was linked to the tube tunnels running under it. There were a large number of decommissioned mattresses in the backyard, and rats had been digging holes into them. The washing machine room was full of rat droppings, and the laundry storeroom had the bedsheets covered with mice droppings. Other companies had been dropping 100g sachets of whole wheat bait that the rats were mostly disregarding. One of the staff had a rat run over her while she was on a cigarette break and got bit.
The first thing we did was to panel up the column at the back of the washing machines to prevent rats from accessing this room. Then we mouse proofed the linen room, and the main difficulty was proofing the suspended ceiling. The waste disposal contractor would not clear the yard until the rat situation would have been dealt with. It took us three weeks to bring it down, and we were surprised at the rate at which the poison was being eaten. After three weeks of relentless baiting and smell issues, the bait takes pretty much stopped everywhere but at the vent exit of the tube network running below. Eventually, all the mattresses were taken away, and the other contractors resumed their routine visits.
Bed bugs in Hotel
It is a reallity that some guests may have bed bugs at home, and as they take a vacation, can spread their infestation to a summer let or hotel stay through the use of their suitcases.
We had to deal with a business owner in Kensington who would call us about every so many weeks to treat a different bedroom for bed bugs. Despite our recommendations and advice, he would not consider heat treatment and would not put the affected rooms out of order. Over a period of eighteen months, we possibly treated six bedrooms there. At least two of them had bed bug nest at the back of the headboards and blood on the bed frame. Later the gentleman asked us for a discounted rate for our service of bed bug spray for hotel rooms, under the pretense of being a frequent customer, and this was when we ceased to attend.
To some extent, the client is king, and it is our job to do the best we can within the perimeter of any given job. But clearly, that hotel was badly managed in the sense that the room was sprayed, and new patrons would sleep in there the very same night or so. The chemical treatment does not make the bed bug infestation disappear from a hotel room as per magic. So, while the bed bug treatment is depleting the stock of bed bugs, any new guests are potentially exposed to bites and to have their suitcases contaminated by bed bugs and bring them back home. Furthermore, as he would receive a complaint from a guest, he would move them to a different room, further increasing the chance of contaminating other rooms.
The right pest control procedure in hotel rooms: how to avoid bed bug hotel complaints
The last thing you need is a customer saying, “I found a bed bug in my room.” How to avoid getting bed bugs from hotel beds is a real concern. I personally spend an awful lot of time sleeping in hotels because of work and have seen bed bugs on three occasions. I always attend with a soft bag, and whatever I bring is cotton and gets hot washed upon my return home, including the soft bag.
Bed bugs hotel complaints are made to the reception, who will do their best to relocate you. They will normally want to keep it as low-key as they can. However, as a result of that complaint, the reception staff should put the first room out of service and request a bed bug spray for hotel rooms for the second, as a precaution.
Because you want the room to come back on-line ASAP, as well as to protect the next customers, you would want to only consider a pretty instant solution. How to find bed bugs in hotel rooms is not always straightforward, above all, if there is not an established infestation yet. So, you need to treat it throughout and with heat. Only an exposure above 56°C would kill all stages of bed bugs at once. That basically means carrying out a full heat treatment on the entire bedroom or use a powerful steamer. Once the bed bug heat treatment is completed, we would spray thoroughly for good measure.
Methods of pest control in hotels
The hotel management team should explain how pest control is carried out in hotels to their staff. This would serve the dual purpose of telling them what not to do that would favour pests and what they can do to help the pest control team achieve the best results.
Look out for signs of pests
Ensure that all staff is aware of the signs of pests and that they actively look for these signs on a daily basis. Certain signs are fairly obvious, for example, droppings on the floor are a clear sign of mice or rats, but other pests are less obvious to detect. Small holes in rugs, carpets, and towels indicate the existence of moths or carpet beetles, and they’re difficult to detect unless these items are inspected regularly. Furthermore, some pests will often only be detected by sound.
For instance, scurrying noises indicate the presence of cockroaches (along with a pungent odour), and buzzing sounds may indicate a wasp’s nest within the roof, walls, or air vents. Such sounds may be overlooked in the general day-to-day operations of a hotel, so it’s important to be on the lookout. Failure to do so will result in the hotel only becoming aware of a problem when a guest complains – an incredibly embarrassing situation to be in.
Maintain a high standard of cleanliness
As well as looking for signs of pests, it’s equally (if not more) important to prevent a pest infestation. The most effective way to do this is by maintaining high cleaning standards. Of course, hotel cleaners are trained and perform a great job, but it’s imperative to stress the importance of cleaning every room as thoroughly as possible. Pests will be attracted by food crumbs and dark/hidden areas that are left undisturbed for long periods, such as under beds and behind cupboards. Cleaning such areas regularly will mean pests won’t have time to settle and lay eggs.
Pests are a real threat, and it may be worthwhile to include information on pests in the staff handbook to keep this issue at the forefront of the hotel employees’ minds.
Act on customers complaints
It may sound obvious, but it’s vital that customer complaints are acted upon. Of course, customers reporting a pest sighting is impossible to ignore, but some complaints may not be as concrete. Some customers may simply report a suspicion that there’s a pest problem in the hotel rather than supplying concrete evidence. They may have noticed one of the signs we mentioned previously, and this must be investigated immediately. Having a pest problem is bad enough, but having a customer say “I told you so” after failing to follow-up on their complaints is ten times worse. Never get complacent.
Limit entry points
Check the structural integrity of the building to ensure there aren’t any gaps or cracks through which pests can enter. The smallest gap in the wall is all that’s needed for rodents, ants, cockroaches, and many more pests to enter a hotel. Have pipework assessed and make sure there are no gaps between pipes and the surrounding walls, too. If there are gaps, then call a professional to have them filled immediately – rats tend to enter buildings from the sewer system, so this is imperative. Also, check for leaks and have them repaired as soon as possible; the damp/mould can attract flies.
Use a pest management system
Arguably the most important step you can take towards protecting your hotel from pests is to hire a professional pest controller and set up an ongoing contract. Having a proper pest control procedure in hotel policies will ensure that all necessary checks for weaknesses and potential pest entry points will be performed, and the necessary steps will be taken to ensure the hotel is pest-proof. Should any pest problem arise, which unfortunately can be common, since hotels handle food and drink constantly, then having a pest control company on hand is vital. Using the same pest control company, one that knows your hotel inside and out, will mean they’ll be able to deal with pest problems more efficiently than a brand-new company each time.
Here at Inoculand, we have vast experience in providing hotels with pest control services. With over ten years serving London and the surrounding areas, you’re in safe hands. We can put in place a sound pest control procedure in hotel rooms and ensure that the catering areas remain pest-free. Get in touch with us to find out more about our pest control and pest management services.