It was supposed to be a "romantic night away" for a young couple staying at a reputable Brisbane hotel on Saturday, but rather than a plush king-sized bed to rest in they were "forced" to sleep in the hotel lobby instead.
The reason, according to Benjamin — who lives in Melbourne and had booked the room to reconnect with his girlfriend based in Brisbane — is because they'd discovered several cockroaches and bed bugs in their room at the Park Regis North Quay hotel in Brisbane. And because there were no more rooms available, they had "nowhere else to sleep".
Photos shared with Yahoo News Australia show several brown critters the pair had captured inside a glass, which appear to be tiny cockroaches. Another shows what appears to be a bed bug which was found in the couple's bed as they were getting ready to call it a night.
Brisbane hotel denies bed bug claims
Despite the photos, a spokesperson for the hotel group said it's not yet been confirmed "as to whether the room was infested with bugs" and claimed there was "no issue" before the 21-year-old checked in on Saturday afternoon.
Additionally, the property had been treated for pests last week, Richard Doyle, Group General Counsel for StayWell Holdings, which manages Park Regis hotels, told Yahoo News Australia. He also pointed out that "bedbugs usually travel in people’s clothes and luggage" and suggested, "they could have been brought into the room by the traveller."
But the 21-year-old, who moved to Australia from the UK a year ago, said "that's definitely not the case" and confirmed he'd travelled from his unit in Melbourne where he had no issues, shutting down claims he'd been "backpacking" and likely brought the bugs home with him.
'Freaked out' after noticing bugs
Ben said it was about midnight when they first noticed a cockroach "in the living room area". They were "relaxing" on the lounge with his girlfriend eating chocolate before she jumped up to have a shower.
"She left some on the sofa and two cockroaches went for the chocolate right next to me," he told Yahoo. "I didn’t realise but she freaked out when she came back and saw them." For the next hour, he claims they were "ripping apart the sofa trying to catch the bugs".
Thinking it was likely just the living room, they gave up and went into the bedroom — but that's when they claim they saw "one fat bed bug" crawling on it.
"I thought ‘oh god, no way’ and I squashed it then stripped the bed back halfway to check for more," Ben said. "I didn't see any more but I saw a few black dots. I didn’t really know what to look for because this is the first time I’ve ever encountered it".
No one available to assist guests
At this point, the British traveller admitted he didn't know what to do so attempted to call the hotel, but because it was so late, was transferred to an external service provider instead.
Doyle confirmed the "normal process" then would be for the external service representative to notify the caretaker who lives at the hotel, who would then assist the guest. But the after-hours staff was "unable to reach our on-site caretaker at 2am," Doyle confirmed, admitting "we accept this was a failing on our part".
"The guest was unable to be relocated in the hotel as all of our other rooms were full," he continued.
Couple move to hotel lobby
Ben said they thought about sleeping on the lounge but "then I pulled one more sofa part backwards and there was a massive cockroach," he claims. "We couldn’t sleep on the bed or the lounge, and we didn’t really want to sleep on the floor because it's infested with this stuff, so my girlfriend suggested sleeping in the lobby".
Photos show the couple curled up on a lounge in the hotel lobby, where they stayed until about 7am. At that point, Ben said the lady who had checked them in a day earlier had started work and asked what they were doing.
"I told her the situation, and she went and checked the room. She palmed off the cockroaches and the bed bug claiming there was 'nothing we can do’," he said. "Then she told us we could stay in the lobby or we could go because there were no other rooms available — so we left."
Hotel says there were no previous bed bug complaints
Doyle could not confirm "whether the room was infested with bed bugs" and said a pest inspector had been called. He said the last guest who stayed in the room "was from the Queensland Police and stayed for six days. They advised there were no issues with their room".
"We are a well-respected company. We've been operating this particular hotel since 2007. We've had zero bed bug complaints since 2007 and very few complaints about the state of our rooms," he said. He added it's "extremely unfortunate" to have an upset guest because "no one wants to have unhappy guests and no one wants to have this type of issue occur".
Ben, who was offered a full refund by the hotel, said the incident has certainly taught him to be "be more vigilant" and to always check the bed wherever he travels. It comes as bed bug infestations are on the rise across Australia following a "plague" in France, and the influx of Aussie travellers returning home after the holidays.
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