Tips and myths that could boost your property’s OTA presence

Online photography is a hot-button issue in a market that is ever-increasingly concerned with online travel agencies and digital marketing.

accomnews spoke with industry specialists Christine Gatti and Dylan Cross about the ‘need to know’ elements of online photography. “Without great photography to sell the property, no amount of renovation, service or any other investment will sell the property,” they said. “We live in a world that is more image driven than any other time in history. Guests want to ‘see’ what you offer rather than browse a listing of amenities.”

Mr Cross and Ms Gatti told accomnews that, compared to other investments accommodation providers can make, the cost of professional photography is an absolutely necessary addition to the budget. “What a shame to have spent millions to build a gorgeous updated property and not have the resources to sell it to potential guests, especially when the cost of a full shoot usually comes in around 0.2 per cent of the renovation-or less.”

The pair work with Dragonfly Image Partners as photographers to the industry and claim there are two key myths that pose a danger to providers.

The first is that most people think photography for hotels and resorts is about showing-off the property. While this is true to some degree, Mr Cross and Ms Gatti claim that the real purpose of online photography is to enchant potential guests, draw them in and ultimately entice them into clicking the ‘book now’ button.

“Another myth is that because you can capture decent images on mobile phones and consumer DSLRs, hiring a professional isn’t necessary,” they added. “Professional hotel and resort photographers know how to show spaces to their best advantage and how to cater images differently to appeal to either business or leisure travellers.”

AN 81 wk2  online photography 2What do OTAs think about online photography?

accomnews also caught up with TripAdvisor to see how important online photography really is to the OTA sphere. The company said, “Providing photos is one of the most important things owners can do, with the number of photos a property displays having the highest level of positive impact on traveller engagement.

“Just going from not displaying any photos to having one or more photos on hotel and B&B pages resulted in 138 per cent more engagement from travellers in a recent study, while properties with over 100 photos see an increase of 151 per cent in engagement levels (compared to properties with no photos).”

TripAdvisor added, “Not only does increasing the number of photos on a property page encourage higher levels of engagement from travellers, it can also lead to more potential bookings. Properties with at least one photo see a 225 per cent increase in the likelihood of a booking enquiry on TripAdvisor (compared to properties with no photos).”

When should new photographs be taken?

A good time to schedule a photoshoot at your property is just after a renovation but Mr Cross and Ms Gatti added that it would be worthwhile if the property is underperforming in its comp set as “fresh photography is one of the most cost effective ways to reinvent the curb appeal and build both RevPar and bookings”.

In terms of scheduling a shoot, the ideal time is in low season with good weather and it is also easiest if the shoot can be scheduled when occupancy is low or at least not at 100 per cent. Weather is more important for beach resorts as they need beautiful sunny skies but an urban business tower would only require a few hours of good weather to do the exteriors, according to the experts.

Including guests in your images may seem like a good idea but can be stressful as Mr Cross and Ms Gatti explained to AMG. They might sometimes be included in lobbies, cocktail lounges or restaurants if slightly blurred so they are no longer recognisable. “These kinds of images can bring a lot of energy to the property’s portfolio and are a powerful extension to the architectural photography for resorts and destination hotels.”

However, if you want to represent people in lifestyle images you have to use professional models and have make-up/wardrobe stylists work with a photographer who specialises in lifestyle work.

What should providers avoid when it comes to online photography?

According to Mr Cross, this varies from property to property, but the smart answer is that dated photography equals bad photography. “I often see properties who have done photography/renovations at various stages and have what would be an overall great portfolio with one or two exceptions, usually due to the photography being outdated. This is unfortunately a sales killer because it implies to potential guests that, just like the photography, the hotel isn’t fully updated.”

“Another kind of photograph to avoid is the ‘show it all’. What I mean by this is a guest room shot too close to the bed to be a good image of the room in order to feature the breakfast tray on it, but not close enough to be an effective food shot,” Ms Gatti said. “This kind of shot fails twice and I see it too often in hotels portfolios. Decide what you are saying with each photograph and do it effectively. If you want to shoot food, shoot food. If you want to shoot rooms and want to include the breakfast, then use it as a prop without cutting the foundation out of the room shot.”

They both agree, “Ideally you should have photographs of as much of the property as possible. If you have a pool, but no photograph of it, one wonders why? If you have a dated and/or poor photograph it will register as a negative. Look at your photographs as a portfolio of your property and think of the message they send.”

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