If you work for a hotel or cruise line and you are attending the Pest Management Canada 2010 conference in Ottawa starting on Thursday, chances are you won't be tweeting too much about it.
Bed-bug infestation is a touch-and-go problem for hotels and conference organizers state: "Due to the sensitivity of this issue, attendees will also be provided opportunities to ask questions of the expert instructors anonymously and meet with trained professionals to address site-specific questions in a confidential fashion."
The annual, three-day event, hosted at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, is organized by the National Pest Management Association, the Canadian Pest Management Association and the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations.
The main conference is designed for pest control companies, but a one-day Bed Bug Symposium Friday will be geared for hotels, cruise-ship administrators, hospitals and apartment managers.
The organizers cite "industry research" showing a 71% increase in bed-bug calls to pest management companies since 2001.
Of course, if your hotel, cruise ship or hospital has a bed-bug infestation or incident, keeping it hush-hush is paramount, according to some.
In that regard, the keynote address by Dini Miller of the Virginian Polytechnic Institute State University promises that "identification, inspection and prevention tips will be provided, along with suggestions for dealing with incidents and staying out of the media." [my italics]
The main conference will feature helpful sessions on "Maggot Mortality" and "Bird Management as an Add-on Service," so I'm glad the pest technicians are hip to ancillary services.
There also is indeed a session on social media -- how to build a Facebook fan page and how to link it to your Twitter account -- but I couldn't figure out if it is geared toward pest-control companies or hotels, cruise lines and apartment complexes.
That's because people from the National Pest Management Association didn't have time to answer my questions today in the run-up to the conference.
I guess they know how to stay out of the travel media.
UPDATE: I just spoke with Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs, for NPMA. She says about 60 people from government agencies, the lodging industry, apartment rental industry and colleges are expected to attend the Bed Bug Symposium.
Her description of bed bugs as "hitch-hikers" would give any seasoned traveler pause as she notes that bed bugs that make it from a hotel room into your suitcase may crawl into other travelers' suitcases in airliner cargo holds.
Henriksen ties the bed bug "epidemic" to increased international travel over the years and notes that bed bugs are equal opportunity inhabitants. That is, their presence doesn't necessarily indicate a hygience problem and their infestation can happen to hostels and five-star properties alike.
Here are some of Henriksen's tips for travelers:
- Keep your suitcase in the hotel-room bathroom on the tiled floor because bed-bug eggs are sticky and are less likely to be present on the bathroom floor, where they can be more easily spotted anyway.
- Take all of your clothes out of the suitcase and hang them up in the closet or put them in drawers.
- Inspect the hotel-room bed for small specs of blood -- bed bugs feed on humans and one feeding can last for a year -- and the bed bugs themselves by inspecting sheets and the bed's skirting.
- When you return home, wash all of your clothes in hot water or take them to the drycleaner and vacuum your suitcase.
Henriksen's urges hotels to tackle any bed-bug infestations immediately and to contact pest professionals.
And, she defends lodging companies trying to keep a bed-bug problem out of the media.
"If there is a broken water pipe, hotels don't alert the media," Henriksen says. "The same is true with bed bugs."