This past year, 2017, has been the highest and strongest tourism arrival results in seven years. According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, there was a total of 1.32 billion visitors worldwide. Based on data reported by destinations around the world, it is estimated that international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) worldwide increased by 7% in 2017. The economic boom of some countries like Russia, China or Brazil has broadened the ranks of tourists. However, the main reason is that today everything is simpler with the Internet. Last year according to Coach Omnium, nearly 80% of bookings were made online for the hotel sector alone. Tourism has cleverly used the digital wave to accelerate its development. Hospitality professionals have adapted well to the tools and new practices that have emerged over the last decade. But if digital has opened new perspectives, any change brings a lot of challenges.
Online Tourism Agencies, The Essential Platform.
While the Internet has made exchanges between hotels and their customers easier and more fluid, it has also been fertile ground for the development of new players, such as Airbnb and especially Online Tourism Agencies (OTA), like Tripadvisor, Booking.com, or Expedia. These new sites have been one of the best tools for digitizing tourism activity to such an extent that today the market largely depends on them. These platforms are essential for any hotel that wishes to exist in this ecosystem where competition is raging. Today according to a report produced by Coach Omnium in 2017, 65% of bookings were made via an OTA. An impressive figure when we know that in 2009 only 13% chose this option. Moreover, a survey by Expedia revealed that 65% of people making a reservation directly on the site of a hotel, previously passed through an OTA.
These platforms then became THE privileged point of contact with the clientele for the hotels. It must be recognized, however, that they represent both an advantage and a disadvantage. If they generate traffic and reservations, they put in direct competition all the hotels in the same area. Search has become so easy for visitors to these sites, that a hotel can find itself very quickly eliminated from the race if it’s not paying attention. This is why necessary for professionals in the hotel sector to have the right approach when it comes to Online Tourism Agencies.
The Photos: A Key Asset
We are attacking a huge subject. The digital strategy of a hotel should not be limited to the sole management of its website, it's also essential to stand out on the OTA. It' necessary to take into account all the decisive parameters of the decision process of the visitors of the sites and to optimize its advertisements accordingly. Two factors stand out as being more important in getting your ad out of the box. The first is at the level of comments. This is a new factor that must now be taken into account since, according to Coach Omnium, in 2017, 76.5% of tourists say they attach importance to the e-reputation of a hotel when in 2013 they are were only 41% to say the same thing. Today to increase the rating by one point is to increase the turnover by 11%. Unfortunately, even if it's possible to work on the e-reputation, this is an element that escapes some of the control of hotels. Comments are by definition written by external sources and hosted on a third-party site. This point of marketing strategy is as promising as it is therefore difficult to handle and requires a lot of effort.
The second factor will then be the visual dimension of the ads. The advantage here is that it's a lever that is easy enough to activate and has spectacular effects on sales. Indeed, according to a study by Tripadvisor, displaying even a photo of its hotel increases visitor engagement by 138%. If we follow the same logic, hotels that publish at least one image in their ad will be 3.25 times more likely to make a booking visit. The site recommends that hospitality professionals provide at least 20 images per advertisement. Finally, we must add to all that the fact that a photo captures the attention more effectively than a text. A study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group showed that a user reads only 28% of the words contained in a page. The photo is then the major asset of an advertisement on the OTA and must be considered as the central element of the digital strategy.
Good Photo Practices to Adopt for Perfect Ads
If the photo is a springboard that will make the difference on OTA, it's a double-edged sword. A beautiful visual can attract the eye but a bad photo will inevitably repel potential customers. That is why this dimension must be given special care. A thorough survey conducted by Expedia allows us to learn more about good practices in hotel photography. Using an electromyogram, the study was able to accurately identify which elements separate the good visual from the bad and here are the results.
Capitalize on the View
A good image must bring something to the consumer. The pictures of a room where you can see through the window, a pleasant view and bathed in natural light are the guarantees of success. These images have the potential to trigger an instant reaction between the consumer and the hotel. Indeed for a potential customer, having an overview of the view is essential. This allows them to have a global context and to project themselves into the room. Including points of interest outside the hotel in its visuals such as a beach, a nice view of the city or a known landmark can be a real added value.
Photo Credit: Bentley Hotel New-York
The most popular images are by far the most authentic ones. Photos that appear skewed or distorted tend to raise buyers' suspicion because they create unrealistic representations of the property. The consumer may then think that the hotel has something to hide. Hotels should stay simple and try not to show too much in one go. So we forget the distortions in fisheye mode and we do not abuse Photoshop.
Photo Credit: InterContinental Bangkok Hotel
Take Advantage of Even The Smallest Assets
A swimming pool, a nice bar, a library, if your hotel has the least unusual or original feature, it must absolutely be put in the center of your photos that stand out from the competition.
Photo Credit: Hôtel Universel Montréal
The best way to get the photos up is to hire a professional photographer. The photos that have elicited the most positive reactions are those whose sharpness and precision give the impression of space and light. Conversely, without proper equipment and know-how, the visuals can give an impression of uncomfortable disorder. And even if you have competition equipment, you do not improvise a photographer overnight. Random framing, poor exposure, a poorly managed white balance are all details that must be taken into account and that can ruin a photo. The investment is, however, worth it. This is a guarantee of seriousness, an insurance for visitors. Game on the light, on the space, on the composition, opt for a professional shoot will change an ad at all, for the better.
Photo Credit: Holiday Inn
At a time when consumers are crumbling under the choices when it comes to booking a hotel, the visual identity has never been so important. With eye-catching images and an unwavering commitment to quality, the visuals of your ads will give a powerful boost to your bookings. The effort made to give travelers an accurate and enjoyable overview of your hotel is worth it and should quickly be felt at the level of reservations.