How Pests Can Ruin Your Hotel Business

Perhaps more than any other quality issue, a pest problem can be extremely harmful for your hotel’s reputation and, more importantly, its ability to retain guests. If you don’t believe it, look to the Internet or more specifically, the blogosphere.

A new study commissioned by pest control company Orkin, Inc. shows hotel guests have “zero tolerance” for bugs or other pests, particularly in guestrooms. And, unlike other service or facility issues, hotels with pests have greater difficulty in recovering customer loyalty or even a commitment from a guest to return to a property.

The study, done by hospitality and linguistics experts Dr. John Crotts and Dr. Peyton Mason, evaluated 500 blog entries in which hotel guests mentioned one or more of 12 types of pests in conjunction with a hotel stay or a visit to a restaurant.

“Studies of other types of hotel service failures don’t compare to the reaction guests have to pests,” says Crotts, a professor of hospitality and tourism management at the College of Charleston. “In virtually all of the blog narratives we reviewed, attempts by hotel management to remedy the situation had no effect on recovering guest loyalty. Unlike a rude employee, a meal served cold or a broken air conditioner, observing a pest was deemed a failure management couldn’t overcome.”

Crotts says restaurant patrons seem to be more forgiving: According to the study, an encounter with a pest in a restaurant reduces the intent to return by 50 percent.

“While that’s significantly negative, people can be more forgiving of a restaurant than a hotel,” he says. “People view restaurants as public spaces and show more tolerance, but a hotel guestroom is a private space where guests expect they’ll be able to lower their guards. Their responses in these situations tend to be highly emotionally charged and for the most part unforgiving.”

In all but one hotel-related post reviewed by Crotts and Mason, the guests said they wouldn’t return to a property after encountering pests. Traditional recovery strategies employed by hotels (apologies, switching guests to other rooms, discounts, refunds) had no effect on loyalty.

In conducting the study, the researchers found 62 percent of the pest mentions occurred at unrated and one- and two-diamond/star properties; 27 percent were at three-diamond/star hotels; while 11 percent of the incidents occurred at four- and five-star/diamond properties.

The study found pest encounters lead to blog entries that focus solely on the pest rather than other aspects of the hotel, such as price and service. Blog entries relating to pest problems often contain terms such as “awful,” “dirty” and “disgusted,” words hotel managers never want associated with their properties.

“Offering guests a pest-free environment is a basic factor that won’t improve guest satisfaction or loyalty,” said the researchers in their report. “However, failing to provide such an environment will have a significant and measurable negative effect that in nearly all cases cannot be recovered.”

Go to to read the full research report and to download an educational checklist hotel operators can use to identify and prevent pests in key problem areas of a property.

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