When it comes to online hotel reviews, a mention of bed bugs is enough to deter potential customers.

Recent research undertaken at the University of Kentucky, USA has put some hard numbers to the economic impact of online reports of bed bugs in hotels. Results showed that on average, a single report of bed bugs in recent traveller reviews lowers the value of a hotel room by the equivalent of $52 and $32 (Australian dollars) per room per night for business and leisure travellers respectively. The higher loss of hotel room values for business travellers is not surprising given that they tend to stay in more expensive rooms.

While finding a bed bug at home can be unnerving, discovering one in a hotel room can be nightmarish for guests and hotel managers alike. This research from the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment has revealed findings about the financial impact bed bugs can have on the travel and hospitality industry.

The online survey was conducted in May this year. Respondents included almost 2100 people, of these 1298 travelled mainly for leisure and 790 did so largely for business.

Jerrod Penn, the lead author of the study explained, “The goal of the research was to understand consumer preferences when choosing a hotel for business or leisure travel, and how the risk of bed bugs influences their decision. Considering how popular social media has become, it’s important that hotels recognise the potential spread of negative information, regardless of whether the online report of bed bugs is accurate.”

In absolute terms, compared to other hotel aspects, the monetary value for travellers’ concern about bed bugs makes it one of the more important considerations when selecting or grading a hotel. A second mention of bed bugs in recent traveller reviews further decreases the value of a hotel room, but proportionately to a lesser extent than the first alleged report of the pests.

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