By Penny Duelk, Assurance & Marketing Program Director
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” That quote was credited to Albert Einstein, but some argue who said it first. Either way, it is quite befitting when it comes to hoteliers who question why they are not increasing revenue or, at the very least, increasing their reputation.
Being a Quality Assurance Manager for several years in the economy segment, my biggest discovery has been the lack of updated and professional photography for properties.
I’ve been on the road for over 10 years covering 11 states and Canada. While planning my routes, I have to decide where I’ll be spending the night. Of course, like any guest, I am pretty savvy at researching reviews on TripAdvisor and property websites. I look at the photos like anyone else would and am often quite discouraged to see so many “tired” rooms. I have to use my gut to decide which hotel would be the lesser of the evils!
Then, when I arrive and reluctantly check in (wondering if I have made a mistake), I sometimes see a much different room than what was portrayed online! The room has been updated since the last photo…a huge improvement over what was being advertised. And an improvement for which the owners had to dig deep into their pockets!
This is so puzzling to me. Given that hoteliers had the foresight to replace bedspreads, refresh bathrooms, paint accent walls and replace their carpeting, why wouldn’t they want to scream it from the rooftop to let customers know? Why would they let their competitors encroach on their market share? The investment for these improvements was several thousand dollars and a professional photoshoot is under $600. Don’t they know they have to “show to grow?”
First of all, they should give themselves a pat on the back for acknowledging that it is time to remove the bedspreads and the faded drapes and stale artwork; after all, everyone else is. But it’s important to realize that unless they post new photos, no one will ever see the transformation! So, like in the quote above, if they keep the same photos of their old rooms, their rates will have to remain the same, their occupancy will painfully remain the same and their reputation will reflect the same old complaints. There will be no chance for a better outcome.
Since the recession about 10 years ago, a lot of travelers have had to make changes in their budgets and are searching for economy hotels. Their previous travel allowances at the midscale level have been cut back and companies, along with families, are being frugal. The travelers are aware that the amenities may be less than what they are used to, but they still want comfortable, clean and safe accommodations. Why would they expect anything less? After all, they are paying for the room and bath; economy or luxury, they should always be getting, comfortable, clean and safe, right?
But how will they know that you send out for crisp white sheeting and have invested in new top covers and 42″ flatscreens? How will they know that the bath is sparkling clean and you just painted the azure blue accent wall to welcome them from their long trip? They won’t if you don’t document it online with new, professional photos. Not only would you be advertising your hard work and investment, I’m pretty sure you will reap the benefits over and over with the loyalty of that business traveler or family.
Competition is also not your friend. Every hotel chain has been dipping its feet into new designs and amenities to entice guests, and its pricing is pretty good too. So, this would be another reason to show off when a guest is looking at the “line-up” of hotels in your area. Hold your head high, earn your bragging rights and grab your piece of the market. You did the work, you deserve it.
Using a professional photographer is going to make your improvements shine! Don’t think you can compete with their talent by using your cell phone. Those pictures are only going to drive home the thought that you are not proud enough of your property to spend the money for a real photoshoot. This, in turn, sends a subliminal message to your viewers that you just don’t care. That’s the furthest thing from the truth, but try telling them that while they are staring at an under or overexposed photo of your Jacuzzi room with a wrinkled bed skirt, floppy pillows and lopsided lampshades…hardly a place they want to stay for their anniversary. You’re asking good money for your rooms, show them off! You wouldn’t wear a wrinkled or stained shirt on your first date, would you? You wouldn’t wear an old faded suit to an interview. Then why wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward when showing off your property to someone who has never stayed with you? It’s the first and only impression you get to make to reel in the business.
Take a look at your website and see how you appear to others. Better yet, search your area and see yourself in the lineup with your competitors. After all, that’s what your future guests will see. If you don’t like what you see, then chances are good neither will they. Make an appointment with a professional hotel photographer, stage the room, iron, fluff, polish and shoot! Let the bookings begin.