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Potential Guests Rely on Photography To Choose Hotels

August 9, 2016

When my wife and I go on vacation, we look at the photographs of a resort and then we read the reviews. I suspect that, for leisure travelers, we are not alone in how we book a hotel or resort.

Indeed several studies have shown that the photographs of the property rank among the most important deciding factors for a potential guest to choose one hotel property over another.

When I look at the photographs, I'm looking for a sense that the photographs are new and the room is updated. Beyond that, I'm looking for specifics. For example, if we book a suite and we are traveling with our 9 year old son, can we close off the bedroom from the separate living space? (Because if we can't, and he goes to sleep at 9:30, the deal is that we are also going to sleep at 9:30. It becomes frustrating for me to not be able to know this if I cannot tell from the photographs.) Does the room category have a deck with a sliding door? A view? Does the bathroom have a tub? Beautiful, descriptive photographs are what I'm looking for when I go to the property's website.

Eye tracking studies have shown that users pay attention to photographs that provide relevant information and ignore stock photos and fluff

According to Jacob Nielson, called the guru of website usability by The New York Times:

Information-Carrying Images = Good

The commonality across all of these examples (and thousands more in our other studies) is that users pay attention to information-carrying images that show content that's relevant to the task at hand. And users ignore purely decorative images that don't add real content to the page. So much fluff — of which there's too much already on the Web.

To further that point, a recent eye tracking study by Cornell University found that the images are one of the most important deciding factors for consumers when booking a hotel.

Pictures of the hotel appear to be hugely influential during a search.

The bottom line is that hospitality property owners, General Managers and Directors of Sales and Marketing would be wise to invest in professional photo shoots: a great photographer can add a fortune to your website's business value. For example, to get a view of inside of a guest room and show the view of the outside takes skill and knowledge far beyond what your cousin can do (or your social media intern) with their DSLR they own. You need a professional photographer who specializes in photographing interiors and exteriors.

Consider also using a professional "soft goods" stylist. That's right, don't laugh, "A Bed Stylist." Despite how high you are on your housekeeping team, they don't know how to make the pillows look great and the beds as wrinkle fee as possible. The stylist can also add those special touches to the room.

Finally, update your photographs frequently. If you renovate, put the photo shoot into the budget. Starwood uses a 5 year plan: all photographs must be updated every 5 years.

In the end, if you have a property that is beautiful and you want the world to see it in all it's glory, hiring a professional photographer that comes highly recommended will be worth the investment. Your sales will increase because the website and your photographs are some of your most important assets in this competitive market place.

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Greg Ceo is a professional hotel and resort photographer based in Brooklyn, NY and Savannah, GA. He has worked on an episode of Hotel Impossible and written for Lodging Magazine. He has shot for Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Omni, Starwood, Wyndham, and boutique hotel properties around the world. See more of his work at www.gregceostudio.com.