There's a famous case study about how Airbnb turned around and grew a failing business simply by taking the time to invest in professional photography. If that's not enough motivation to get you to step up and optimize your website imagery, then we don't know what is.

Whether you are launching a new website for your hotel or revamping an existing one, we've laid out some guidelines to follow to make sure that you are putting your best foot forward.

1. Be authentic

There are few things less embarrassing than someone shopping around for a hotel online and recognizing a photo on your site from another they just looked at. The best investment you can make in your marketing efforts is in a professional photographer who has experience with hotels; or even real estate. Bonus points if their photography style aligns with your branding.

Start by gathering inspiration. Are there websites with images you love and connect with your hotel's image? Put these examples together as a mood board and as a rough guide as you bring your ideas to life. Make sure to plan ahead and put together a shot list to pair with that inspiration.

If you really need to use stock imagery, stay away from clearly staged photos and try to alter the images a bit to fit the hotel's style. Do not collect images from a Google search unless you want to risk a copyright infringement. Instead, here's a list of resources for some gorgeous and unique stock photography.

Pro tip: Showcase your seasonal offerings. If you offer a cup of cocoa during the winter or turn on a fireplace in the lobby, make sure to capture and display that on your website.

2. Know your audience

Are you looking to reach a new demographic or attract a similar type of guest? Once you know your target audience, make sure that they are represented in your imagery. For example, if your target audience is young and digital, you'll want to display bright and strong imagery. If they are a more mature demographic, you'll want to display more classic and subdued images.

It's also important to choose images that resonate with them and their needs. A younger audience might want to know more about your technology-related amenities and recreational activities. A more mature audience might want to know more about your accessibility to nearby sights and wellness-related offers.

Luckily for us, travel is an emotionally driven industry and purchasing behaviour relies on emotional connection. Images that portray guests experiencing and enjoying your amenities are simple but can be a strong marketing tool. Don't forget to be diverse and welcoming. Is everyone welcome at your hotel? Make sure that this is clear in your imagery and messaging. You wouldn't want to alienate potential guests because they don't see themselves in your promotional material.

Provenance Hotels website
Provenance Hotels uses imagery on their website that reflects their guests and customer service.
Pro tip: Without customer service, a hotel is just a building with very nicely made up rooms. If your team is small, this is a chance to really shine. Making an effort to be transparent and show the real people that contribute to the full hotel experience is something that will allow visitors to connect with your brand.

3. Make a good first impression

It is said that the human brain processes an image in 13 milliseconds. This means that an opinion is formed within the first few seconds, making that first impression even more crucial to the booking process. In short, the quality of your images will tell a visitor everything they need to know about the quality of your offering. A website with crisp, clear, and high-quality images is not only enticing to a potential guest but also evokes professionalism.

Charbonnel website homepage
Charbonnel uses large, high-quality visuals on the homepage of their website.

Treat your main image(s) as if they will be the only images on the website. Is there something that makes your hotel unique? Make sure you're putting that at the forefront of your messaging. Allow your hotel to speak for itself through large and striking visuals.

Do not forget to be intentional with the images you display on your website. Every single image should serve a purpose that ultimately directs a visitor to book with you. Studies have shown that people will instinctively ignore an image if it looks like it doesn't serve a purpose and you wouldn't want to waste such precious real estate.

Last, but not least, respect the rules of imagery in web design, like not messing around with aspect ratio, making sure all images are optimized for fast loading and adding ALT tags to your images for visually impaired visitors. Following these guidelines will ultimately boost your conversion rates as well as your SEO ranking.

Pro tip: Always design with mobile in mind. According to Pegasus, 70% of last-minute bookings happen on a mobile device and 39% of OTA bookings are via smartphone. This means that a responsive site will ensure photos are displayed properly across all devices.

4. When in doubt, give a tour

There's no need to reinvent the wheel just because the environment is now digital. Think about how you would give an in-person tour of the hotel and rooms. Now translate it to a digital experience through photography. Here's an easy checklist to help you out:

  • In what order would you show a potential guest the rooms and common areas?
  • Is there anything that a guest might “need to know” when staying in your hotel?
  • Is there anything special about the hotel or area that you like to point out during tours?
  • How would you take a guest around a suite? Would you show them the view first or the bed?
  • What amenities do you typically like to focus on?
Whitney Peak Hotel gallery
Whitney Peak Hotel showcase a number of different parts of the hotel in their imagery.
Pro tip: Reach out to past guests via email and ask them to fill out a survey answering questions like which parts of the hotel experience they valued the most. Adding an incentive, like a free third nights stay, will not only motivate them to help, but will put your hotel back at the front of their minds.

Final thoughts

Digitisation can be quite overwhelming. The good thing is that there are numerous solutions and resources which can help you out every step of the way. Hotelchamp has its own website builder to make life easier for hospitality professionals to optimise their online experiences.

As a hotelier, there are so many moving parts to manage, but it's important to trust in your intuition and experience. Potential guests who stop by and visit the hotel are not that different from the ones visiting your website. Treat them as such.

May 20, 2021
Written by
Hotelchamp Team
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