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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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.