It's been said before: sometimes technology is a solution in search of a problem. The tech-obsessed believe that technology for technology's sake is enough to merit its usage. While this certainly works in some circles, that's not often a mentality shared by hoteliers. Resource-sensitive hoteliers know that any capital expenditure must be matched to a fairly clear return. Deploying technology without an eye to how it improves the guest experience -- or bottom line -- is not a common practice.
This is what makes Valpas
so fresh: The company has created what appears to be the world's first connected bed bug prevention system that both improves the bottom line and the guest experience. And while technology is at the core of the product, the startup matches biological science with the Internet of Things to build an affordable and reliable system to eliminate an expensive and stressful headache for hoteliers: bed bug infestations.
Valpas also has an interesting origin story. It developed as an off-shoot of an existing bed bug eradication service. The founders found the need for a hotel-specific system that not only eliminates the ghastly cost of eliminating bed bugs but also guarantees guests a bed-bug-free stay. Valpas CEO and co-founder Martim Gois shared the story in an interview with tnooz:
The way we ended up in this industry, as we’re all tech and design-minded professionals, but we actually started 5 years ago. We founded North Europe’s first bed bug heat treatment system.
So once we were developing the first company into an industry leader, we realized that the true opportunity is in prevention. It takes weeks to realize there’s a bed bug problem. and by then it is too late. So we applied modern technology and design to solve the problem and update the hospitality industry to this current tech in regards bed bugs.
The company translated its observations and experience to deploy a product that can scale beyond the geographic limitations of a bed bug treatment service. Bigger impact, bigger opportunity.
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A Valpas leg[/caption]
Tackling an expensive -- and embarrassing -- global problem
The statistics aren't pretty. Per an independent research study
sponsored by pest specialists Orkin (which is, of course, partial to showing how bad bed bugs are), found an enormous toll on hotels:
- 8 of 10 hotels have dealt with bed bugs in the past year
- 40% of hotels have treated for bed bugs in the past month
- Hotels spend an average of $6,383 per infestation
- Nearly half of all hotels have dealt with bed bug litigation -- at an average cost of $17,177 per incident.
- On average, hotels paid for bed bug treatments 7.1 times every five years
Taking this all into account, the study said hotels could see a total cost of a single bed bug incident balloon to $23,560 for all legal and remediation costs. And that's just the measurable financial cost. The damage to a hotel's reputation can be much worse, especially given the impact of online forums and traveler reviews. This is a case where prevention really does pay off.
The Valpas system, as explained by Gois, works like this:
It’s been designed for hotels to be able to self-deploy. Step 1, the hotel just replaces their existing bed legs with our smart legs. After that, the legs create their own IoT mesh network that connects to each other independent of WiFi. If any bugs are introduced to the room, the legs capture them and prevents them from doing any harm. The hotel can then go in and empty any bugs from the trap in the leg. Battery lifetime is up to 6 years, the system is 24/7 always on.It’s based on science: bed bugs are naturally attracted to CO2. This is how they find humans. Once they sense it coming from a stable source, the bed bugs moved towards the source. So the legs attract the bugs. There is a special coating for the bugs to climb up.
The system is quite fool proof because we exploit the biology and behavior of bed bugs. We just outsmart them. The only incentive for a bug to move from A to B is to get their next blood meal. Once that CO2 is coming from a stable source, that is the queue for them. They won’t move around if they don’t sense that. So if a room isn’t used, bed bugs will just wait until the next guest arrives.
One thing that stands out is how this system pairs basic science about bed bug behavior with Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. It's a case study in 'science plus simplicity,' because the solution is simple in its complexity. It uses science to capture the unwanted pests and then uses technology to engage both hoteliers and guests on a hotel's bed bug status.
Valuable new information to guests during booking
Perhaps more innovative than even the system is the company's approach to booking. Guests are often worried about bed bugs. And this is regardless of hotel category because bed bugs don't discriminate. They feed wherever they can, and so this is an issue that affects all hotels globally.
Valpas wants to give guests the peace of mind to know that a particular hotel is guaranteed bed-bug-free. This means that the company could potentially create a new type of OTA, focused on factors like bed bugs that don't always make it into the info flow of traditional OTAs. The company is already highlighting "Valpas hotels" prominently on its website
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Searching for 'Valpas hotels'[/caption]
Alternatively, the company could pursue the Routehappy model and offer a third-party guarantee to include in third-party booking flows.
We connect travelers with our collaborator hotels so they can book a carefree stay. It lets them experience the hotel at peace, and lets the hotel operations work at peace as well.
The Valpas business model also reflects this approach: the company leases the system out to hotels. This makes for a lower cost up-front to get started, as well as helps Valpas reach the scale it needs to become known as the source of 'bed-bug-free' hotels.
We basically start by developing our collaborator hotel network through leasing out the system to hotels. And we will shift into helping hotels get more bookings through our website.
Looking ahead, the company has ten hotels operational across the Nordics, with around one hotel a week joining from both the Nordic region as well as the Emirates.Photo by ALP STUDIO on Unsplash