How hotels can use photography to excite, inspire and inform

In Strategy, Hospitality, Design

The primary goal for a hotel website shouldn’t be conversions.

The true goal – the oft-neglected contributor to conversions – is effective visual communication. After all, communication is a key ingredient in transforming browsers to buyers. You express yourself in a thoughtful, engaging way and conversions come naturally.

You may be asking yourself, “What is this man on about? Visual Communication?! We’re communicating with guests. We have professionally crafted copy, dozens of photos and even some video on our website”.

To be clear, I’m not referring to simply displaying photography on your website. What I’m talking about is the ability to persuade people. The ability to take a traveler from a place of ignorance and guide them to a place of understanding, insight and interest. Photography alone isn’t the answer; it’s how you wield photography that will ultimately decide how visitors perceive and engage with your hotel.

The strategic use of photography is an exceedingly effective way to communicate with potential visitors. What do I mean by that? Allow me to outline a fictional case study to illustrate my point.

Chateau Fondue. A remarkable place but you’d never know it.

Chateau Fondue is a mid-size boutique hotel nestled in the Coastal Mountains of British Columbia. Considerable time and capital has been spent developing the physical spaces and amenities at the hotel. Their service is renowned amongst past guests and is a big contributor to repeat visits. The biggest draw, especially for new visitors, is their location. The hotel is situated on a crisp glacier fed lake with an abundance of outdoor activities nearby. In combination with the stunning location, these activities are recognized as the biggest motivator for guests. As such, successfully showcasing them on the website is of paramount concern.

Listed below are the most prominent activities available at Chateau Fondue

Certainly lots of options for the outdoorsy traveler. This is how Chateau Fondue currently presents activities on their website:

Click image to enlarge

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Not bad but not great either. Basic information is being presented which is good. People are now aware these activities exist. But does this page successfully transport you to the physical place? Does it let you taste the experience of trout fishing on Lake Fondue or trail running in the alpine? Most importantly, if you were looking for a memorable travel experience, would this page convince you to open your wallet?

So Chateau Fondue has a problem. Their real life product is exceptional but their portrayal online undermines that value. Simply put, it’s disappointing.

Let’s examine where Chateau Fondue failed to capitalize on opportunities to better communicate the experience with customers.

Now that we’ve identified these deficiencies, Chateau Fondue can take action to remedy the problem.

Step 1 – Building a robust photographic library

Chateau Fondue needs to work towards building a library of photography that transports people into the experience and physical place (of course video works very well too but that’s another topic altogether). This photography assists potential guests in composing a mental picture that acts as a proxy to real life. We believe this is best achieved through a mixture of photographic styles:

The Long shot

The long shot (environmental shot if you will) is a type of photograph that gives people a sense of context, scale and place. These are the most common types of photographs and odds are they make up the bulk of your current photography collection. They are generally the most important and normally not the problem when it comes to composing a varied collection of images. These are the kinds of images most hospitality marketing directors are familiar with.

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