Why Great Photography May be the Best Investment You Ever Make

By Gary Leopold President & CEO, ISM | May 19, 2010

If you believe "a picture is worth a thousand words" then you can only imagine how exponentially more valuable a really great picture is worth, especially as you think about a networked society that's taking these images and effortlessly distributing them to every corner of the world and sharing them on mediums ranging from computers to PDA's to phones.

How you depict your hotel has never been more critical and the role that photography plays has never been more important. Yet it's surprising how poor the general quality of photography is as you leaf through brochures and surf across the internet. Given the investment owners, developers and management companies put into their hotels, it's amazing that there doesn't seem to be an equally significant investment being made in creating imagery that shows off the property in the most engaging and compelling way possible.

According to a study done by Hotels.com nearly 70% of respondents agreed that seeing photos of the hotel and hotel rooms are key to their decision making process. Why? Because in the customer's desire for immediate gratification, photos are the easiest and fastest way to absorb something about that hotel, and when combined with customer ratings, descriptions and maps, they are the best way to convey the ambiance, quality, service, features and style of your property.

Given the way travelers research and access information today, the single most important marketing expenditure your hotel will ever make will be in the visual images that you use to tell your story to the marketplace.

But getting great photography doesn't happen by accident. In reality it's part art and part science, and through the years I've seen million dollar spaces made to look dull and uninteresting, and simple guest rooms at budget hotels made to feel cozy and comfortable. While digital photography and automatic features on cameras has improved the quality of most picture taking, capturing the spirit and flavor of your property requires far more than snapping a few images as you walk around the hotel. As my friend Robert Reck, an accomplished photographer whose work is regularly featured in Architectural Digest constantly reminds his clients, great images are "made" not "taken".

As you contemplate creating the best possible imagery for your hotel, here are some things to consider:

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.