To Feature People, or Not to Feature People, That is the Question

It’s a debate that comes up again and again: Should hotels include people in the images and media they post online?

Visual content creation is definitely not an exact science or a black and white discussion, so it’s impossible to give a hotelier a yes or no answer when it comes to best practices on this topic.  Let’s explore the arguments for and against having people in photos so you can make an informed decision on what’s right for your property:

Tug of War

To Feature People

One of the world’s largest industries, hospitality is extremely competitive, so it’s a given that any hotel would jump at a chance to create some extra value over the competition. Choosing between featuring guests or not featuring guests in your hotel photos can make the difference in standing out online.

Let’s take a look at the reasons as to why some hotels choose to feature people in their photos.

  1. Travel shoppers will be able to connect with the people featured in the photos. It allows them to visualize their experience at that hotel and that leads to them being inspired and excited about booking with that hotel.
  2. Seeing photos of other people enjoying the hotel services are seen as more engaging and realistic to travel shoppers. Using people in your photos can be a good way to amplify the experience that your hotel offers, and it can help travel shoppers relate to you.
  3. Hotels can use people to showcase their amenities. They will get a feeling for what type of experience to expect in each featured facility or amenity. Seeing a smiling couple having breakfast on the patio, a group of business travelers having a beverage at your bar and lounge, or a family playing a game in the pool are all setting expectations for a fun vacation. It breathes life into your photos that would otherwise be missing.
  4. Photos featuring people can also indicate who the target demographic is for that hotel. It can show travel shoppers who the hotel wants to appeal to, whether it be guests that are luxurious, casual, old, young, family, couples, different ethnicities, and etc.
  5. Special events and gatherings are only special because of the people attending. Using people in photos for weddings, concerts, and on-site clubs can recreate the excitement from those nights.

The Juniper Hotel & BistroBroadmoor

Juniper Hotel & Bistro                                        Broadmoor

Atlantis The Palm Dubai Hotel & ResortAtlantis The Palm

Not to Feature People

You might already feel convinced to keep people in your photos after reading the previous section, but let’s first take a look at the reasons why hotels choose NOT to feature people in their photos before you finally make up your mind.

  1. Keeping content looking fresh can be a challenge for hotels, and having people in photos can make your media appear dated.  Ideally, hotel media would be updated every 2-3 years, but that’s not necessarily feasible for some limited budget properties. To avoid fashion trends making photos look outdated, not featuring people may be a better option for some hotels.
  2. More focus is put on the hotel features and what the hotel has to offer. The photos present an objective view of the amenities without travel shoppers getting hung up on the traits of the actual people.
  3. Not featuring people in photos allows travel shoppers to envision themselves in the scene pictured instead of looking at someone else. The hotel’s intention is to create an isolated photo that would tell a story that takes the travel shopper on a journey where they see themselves enjoying the experience pictured.
  4. Doing this is seen, by some hotels, as politically correct since no one will be offended by feeling that their demographic was intentionally left out. It’s an all-inclusive way to communicate to travel shoppers.
  5. It doesn’t directly reveal the hotel’s target demographic, which allows the photo to appeal to a wider audience of travel shoppers. More potential guests will be able to visualize themselves in the photos as a result.
  6. It forces the hotel to be the star, the centerpiece, and the entire focus of the photos. The beauty of the hotel is on full display when people are left out of the equation. The property can showcase their architecture, splendid surroundings, and more just as the Wynn did below.

 Wynn Las Vegas & Encore ResortWynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort

Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort

So, which is best?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to this debate.  It entirely depends on your property, brand guidelines and how you decide to market your property.

The important thing to remember is that there isn’t a “cookie cutter” approach when it comes to telling your hotel’s story. Each hotel has a unique story and a different view on how to tell that story. Tweaking the formula will create a different message, so evaluate your hotel’s goals and how photos and other media can best convey your message to travel shoppers.

Stay ahead of the game and your competition by downloading our free eBook: Show, Share, Stand Out: The Most Important Hotel Marketing Trends to Watch in 2015.

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