Patrick Clarke | February 12, 2016 12:00 PM ET
Don't Let the Bedbug Hysteria Bite
Bedbug complaints at New York City hotels are skyrocketing of late. And while it makes perfect sense for the initial reaction to be one of disgust and concern, travelers shouldn't go boycotting the Big Apple just yet.
The national Bedbug Registry database shows that bedbug sightings inside New York hotels climbed by more than 44 percent between 2014 and 2015, with 65 percent of the Hotel Association of New York City's more than 270 members having had a guest file at least one bedbug-related complaint.
Although some may be shocked to find out that renowned properties like the five-star Waldorf Astoria and the four-star Millennium Hilton are among those to have received a complaint, keep in mind that 42 percent of the city's total complaints were limited to just 18 hotels, per data from Bedbug Registry.
Also, it's worth noting that it only takes one complaint for a hotel to end up in the registry.
Most importantly, despite the headlines, the bedbug problem isn't limited to hotel rooms.
"Bedbugs are a global issue that extend beyond hotels," Hotel Association of New York City spokeswoman Lisa Linden told the New York Daily News.
Even more encouraging, though, is that hotels are well-equipped to handle those complaints.
"Every member of the Hotel Association of NYC that we are aware of has an active anti-bedbug program in place," Linden added. "If a problem arises, it is dealt with immediately and effectively."
Considering hotels exist to host as many guests as possible in order to turn a profit, they have tremendous incentive to resolve the issue effectively and in a hurry. What's more, since hotels want return customers, they are likely to make up for any inconvenience a guest experiences in the event of a bedbug sighting by offering a discounted or complimentary stay, among other forms of compensation.
Speaking from experience, bedbugs can be awfully difficult to eradicate. But there's also a chance you'll encounter them somewhere other than a hotel room in your lifetime, whether it be at a hospital or a friend's house. After all, my lone experience with bedbugs occurred unexpectedly at home inside of my bedroom.
After trashing my bed and several other pieces of furniture and going through multiple cans of insecticide, the bedbugs are history and the bites have long since healed up. But because bedbugs can cling to belongings and survive in all sorts of different environments — even the cleanest places on Earth — there's no telling where they came from or where they'll turn up next.
Because of their high turnover, hotels are more likely to be victimized by bedbugs. But that also means that hotels are more prepared than any other place to combat a potential infestation.
Beyond that, the good news is that scientists have announced the successful mapping of bedbugs' complete genome, making it easier to develop more effective insecticides.
In the meantime, concerned travelers looking to rest easy should be vigilant and inspect their hotel room beds for any bloodsucking insects. Since other less harmful bugs are oftentimes misidentified as bedbugs, it's not a bad idea for frequent travelers to familiarize themselves with what bedbugs actually look like (flat, oval-shaped and brownish in color).
It's also smart to keep your belongings off of the ground to avoid potentially bringing the tiny pests back home with you.
While bedbugs are worth looking out, they aren't worth staying home for. Ultimately, they can find you anywhere.
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