Bed Bugs, Hotels, And Travelers: Attitudes And Implications
  Key Words  
  Survey, social media, online reviews, misidentification
  Michael F. Potter, Jerrod M. Penn, and Wuyang Hu
  Bed bugs, Cimex lectulariu, occur wherever there is human activity. While infestations are most common in homes and apartments, they are also prevalent in hotels, raising questions about their impact on travel and tourism. To investigate how much the public knows and cares about bed bugs while traveling, we implemented the first nationwide survey of hotel patrons traveling in the U.S. for leisure and business. While the majority of respondents had limited understanding or experience with bed bugs (two-thirds could not identify the bed bug in a lineup of other household insects), the pests evoke fervent responses in most travelers. Compared to other hotel room issues such as odor or lack of cleanliness, evidence of bed bugs is far more likely to cause guests to switch hotels and seek compensation. When booking accommodations online, the majority of respondents stated that a single report of bed bugs would cause them to choose another hotel. Widespread reliance on social media and online reviews when booking accommodations makes the hotel and lodging industry acutely vulnerable to reports of bed bug infestation, irrespective of whether they are accurate. Most respondents wanted to know if their assigned room had a previous bed bug issue, even if it occurred long ago. Travelers also favored hotels with a protective service plan for bed bugs in place (preventive inspections, bed encasements, etc.). Demographic characteristics of respondents generally provided little indication of which segments of the population are most concerned about bed bugs. Rather, attitudes and apprehensions appeared to be universal