Photography is often seen as just a marketing tool for hotels and properties, but as Click. finds out, it has the potential to be much more and in some cases can even enhance the guest experience
by Ellie Ross, Click. Travel Writer
Photography has never been more important in the accommodation industry than it is today. With guests increasingly relying solely on the internet to find a place to stay, the visual medium is a key marketing tool. So it’s little wonder that over 90% of hotel guests find photography and other visual content helpful when choosing a hotel, according to data from Atmosphere Research Group.
Henry H. Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, explains: “Unlike airlines, hotels are a fundamentally visual product. When I say ‘economy seat’, you can imagine what that will be. But when I tell you ‘three-star hotel’, it’s subjective. What’s the style of decor? What does the bathroom look like? Certainly location and price matter, but photography is necessary to help hotels distinguish themselves from one another. It also helps consumers better understand the difference between room types.”
Rise in occupancy
Katerina Petropoulou, Founder and Managing Director at Hotelising, a revenue management company for hotels in Greece, agrees that updated, high-resolution images are vital to a hotel’s success. She saw improved results after revamping the online photography for a villa in Mykonos in 2016. “After publishing the new photos, we raised the selling prices by 20%,” she says. “At the end of the season, not only did we have a higher average daily rate, but also a rise in occupancy, giving a turnover of over 35%.”
After publishing the new photos, we raised the selling prices by 20% – Katerina Petropoulou, Hotelising
An attractive hotel image is well-composed, level and nicely-lit, according to interiors photographer Mark Bolton, whose UK clients include Harbour Hotels, Tewkesbury Park and Lime Wood Hotel. “You need to show a mixture of whole rooms and details that capture the hotel’s atmosphere,” he says. “Be honest – don’t show flowers in every room if guests won’t get them. Don’t be too gimmicky – people distrust flashy work.”
One of the hotel photography trends both Bolton and Petropoulou predict will rise is virtual tours. They do require significant investment – 3deepAerial, specialists in high-end, bespoke virtual tours, charge anywhere between £750 and upwards of £6,000, depending on factors including the number and type of shots used and the size of the business. But the price is worth paying, according to Nicky Miller, Marketing Manager at Budock Vean Hotel in Cornwall. In November 2017, the hotel launched one of the first aerial 360-degree interactive tours of a golf resort in the UK. “It’s a much more interactive tour than the standard aerial or 360 photographic tours,” Miller says. “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, the aerial perspective really gives a sense of place that people would not see from ground level.”
But there’s more to photography than using it purely for marketing purposes; hotels are also using it in innovative ways to enhance guest experience once they arrive, too. In 2013, InterContinental launched free photography masterclasses in four of their European properties to create unique experiences for guests at the property level. In 2015, the chain’s boutique brand Hotel Indigo extended this by introducing a series of smartphone photography masterclasses, where guests would do a photo-walk around the hotel’s surrounding neighbourhood with expert photographer, Dan Rubin, simultaneously learning about the area and how to take the perfect Instagram shot.
Many hotels have begun to use photography from local artists in their lobbies, restaurants and guest rooms. Some even have on-site photography galleries, such as The Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood; its gallery is – fittingly, considering its location – themed around music legends, many of whom have stayed at the hotel.
Many hotels have begun to use photography from local artists in their lobbies, restaurants and guest rooms
According to Katerina Petropoulou, accommodations looking to enhance their guest experience should consider introducing a quirky, photogenic trait. “Hotels that have successful guest experiences often have unique or unusual features that trigger guests to take a photo of it and share it on social media. This could be a piece of art, a wacky chair or stunning pool bar. If you have something really different to other hotels, you stand out from the crowd – you essentially have a brand campaign.”
One hotel that knows about that is Kimpton De Witt. It recently partnered with Amsterdam-based photographer and blogger Debra Barraud to teach the hotel’s front-of-house team to take ‘Instagram-ready’ snaps of guests. Visitors can now ask a bellman to take their pictures in the hotel’s most photo-worthy spots, such as the “and breathe” neon sign at the entrance.
Since the hotel opened in May 2017, the sign has been instagrammed over 700 times. General Manager of Kimpton De Witt, Mike Robinson, says: “We have more and more guests asking our bellmen to take their pictures, which gives them something special to take home and makes their stays memorable.” And with a subtle brand campaign to boot, the hotel is winning, too.
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Ellie Ross is a freelance journalist and travel writer, specialising in active travel, health and fitnessMore by Ellie Ross
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