Information and Emotion Rich Images – The Next Generation of Hotel Photos

Author: Dr. Manus Ward │Head of Digital Strategy and Data Protection │ is a qualified and experienced former hotel manager, culinary Olympic team manager and hospitality Head of School who is passionate about passing on the knowledge he gained from one of the few hotel digital strategy doctorates in the world to you the hotelier. Bonus: If you have any problems with this contact me (100% free) at or 086 8185829 on this or any aspect of your hotel’s digital strategy.

Why you need to change

The old generation of cold lifeless hotel photos with no people in them are dead, but the good thing is your competitors don’t know this so read on and I will tell you what to do. Guests analyse hotel images on two levels. First they scan the images to see if all their physical requirements are in the image and then they imagine being in that image. Your hotel images have to be information rich i.e. physically contain the requirements of the guest and also emotionally persuasive i.e. the guest absolutely feels emotionally comfortable and can imagine themselves in the image.

What you need to do

This article will tell you how to create images that will persuade guests to stay in your hotel in a straightforward way that will not require you to have any professional knowledge.

1. Have one landing page with appropriate images for each of your hotel’s segments.

The research indicates that immediately before purchasing a particular hotel room, guests have narrowed their potential hotels down to an average of 4.1 hotels from which they make their final choice. They have researched the location, their travelling companions requirements, room type, price, local activities etc and all 4.1 hotels roughly fulfill their needs. If you give them a page tailored to give them what they actually want you will significantly beat your competition.

The research also demonstrates that the vast majority of hotel searchers may start on intermediaries such as or Google but if your hotel is in the last 4.1 they will visit your site too so be ready. Also spending large amounts of money on advertisement rather than your own site can be false economy as even the major search engines are still figuring the internet out. Let’s look at the image below.

This example involves me personally. Google detects from cookies that I logged into my Gmail account on this device and therefore thinks it is me using YouTube but it is not me, it is my 7 year old daughter who is targeted with ads appropriate to the content in my emails which is totally irrelevant to her. Key take home – different people share devices making it hard to target observed behaviour on one device.

This amongst other reasons results in the “Skip Ad” button being the most viewed place on a YouTube ad. Here is a YouTube ad examined with Eye Gaze technology to see where the most viewed area of the screen is. The most viewed area shows up on screen with a red colour. images

2. Get into their mental space

The first thing we need to do is get into our potential customers minds. There is a lot of complex theory and research out there but briefly when customers look at pictures of hotels they want to stay in, especially for a leisure break they imagine that hotel in their mind. This is called “in my mind’s eye”, and they imagine themselves in that photo. This is called “virtual transportation” and when they virtually transport themselves into that imaginary scene they experience something called “Flow” where they are totally involved becoming utterly absorbed. The main point to us is we need to create photos that allow this.

3. Create images specific to your segment

This image is from the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin which targets the couple segment. I will explain the theory behind some heavily researched images very simply and then let’s use this image to explain practically how to apply the research into actionable and achievable tips for your hotel.

4. Make the image logically normal

That sounds dare I say it “logical” but believe it or not most hotel bar images do not follow this so let’s look at the following photo and its eye gaze research. Eye gaze research involves the tracking of eye patterns on screen which you will see on some of the images below.

This image involves two sets of TV presenters. On the left we have Patsy Kensit and Devina McCaul. These TV personalities never work together so the image of the two of them together gets significantly less eye gaze than the photo of Devina on her own. On the right we have Trinny and Suzanna who are always together and Trinny’s photo of her on her own receives less attention. So create an image that is logically normal for the setting you want in the image.

Let’s use our example photo and discuss it.


This photo contains what is logically normal in a hotel bar. A barman serving drinks, a range of spirits behind the bar, a couple with drinks in front of them and other guests in the bar. Most bar images contain no staff or customers which is illogical, drawing less visual attention to their photo than our photo.

5. Draw your potential customers’ attention on to what you are trying to sell©

Humans engage other humans eye to eye. The image on the left shows a female model advertising shampoo. We are drawn immediately to her eyes and in fact only 6% of research subjects looked at the brand. The image on the right is identical apart from her eye photo shopped to have her look at the brand. In this image 84% of subjects looked at the brand.

So let’s apply this to our photo.

So in this image we have the female’s eye direction drawing our attention to the central message of the image i.e. our friendly staff would be delighted to serve you our extensive range of drinks.

6. Make the guests in the image the same segment as your target segment

The reality is potential customers examine the people in the images to see how they personally would blend in and make decisions based on how the other guests in the photo look. So what do they do.

Potential customers look extensively at the face of the individual and move down from there. Males and females are also different in that males look at their face with most quickly looking down towards the bottom of their torso. Females look at their face but also at the bottom of their torso, calves and shoes. In fact females scrutinise other females in much greater depth than males scrutinise females.

So how do we apply this to our hotel bar image?

This is a five star hotel and potential guests will expect that their fellow guests will be dressed smartly. The eye gaze pattern is from 1 to 2 for males and 1 through 2 to 3 for females. Unfortunately this lady’s shoes and calves are not visible as the shoe type would be a quality indicator for females but females only. We should also take care to have the female classically dressed so that the photo doesn’t date quickly.

7. Make the images information rich, containing the requirements of your target segment

The information you place in the photo will sell your hotel. With mobile increasingly taking over, people find it difficult to read small screens and increasingly look at the images only rather than the image and text for the information they require to make a purchase decision. So let’s look at the research.


In this image on the left we see the male looks at the face mostly and to a slight extent looks at the other information points in the photo. On the right we see the female also looks at the face but examines deeply all other information points in the photo. Basically males look at the central message as do females but females look extensively at the other key information points in the photo.

So let’s apply this to our hotel bar photo.

The extra pieces of information in this image are flowers, cocktails, other females and shopping bags, all predominantly of female interest. Extra information that would enhance this image would be a tablet signifying wifi and somebody receiving champagne at their table signifying table service and the extensive range of drinks.

8. Place the mood and / or emotion guests would want in the image

My research indicated that males look for physical items in the photos like newspapers etc but females want to emotionally connect with the photo. They want to be the centre of attention and feel welcome and at home. They don’t want to feel out of place or feel upstaged by other more beautiful or more glamorous females.

So let’s apply this again to our photo.

This female is the centre of attention between two smiling men. She is well dressed and attractive but not to the extent that a female looking at the image would feel threatened or upstaged by her. The image is overall emotionally warm and welcoming.

9. Remember different images are different and optimise your images for Google

Finally as a means of truly assessing the image let’s look at another image of the Fitzwilliam hotel bar with nobody in the image.

As you can see it is soulless and lacks the persuasive power of the other image. Overall remember by the time potential guests are on your hotel’s website, they have their credit card out and are deciding which of the average four hotels they are going to purchase. Your images are the largest factor in this “which one” purchase decision thus heavily influencing your hotel’s revenue. Before you implement this into every image in your hotel please note guests expect completely different information in different image areas, for example my research indicated no guest wanted to see somebody else in “their bedroom” yet almost 100% wanted to see people in the image of the bar. Also if you are going to do a photo shoot you will need to create detailed specifications to guide the photographer (It’s a lot easier and cheaper to shoot photos without models and the photographer will give you every excuse to avoid using models). And lastly remember to optimise your images for the Google algorithm.

I completed extensive research on the contents of all the images guests want in a hotel as part of my PhD and have detailed specifications for all these photos. If your images are not selling the true potential of your hotel or if they are getting a little tired or are soulless send me an email to and let’s talk. You can also see a YouTube presentation on this topic by clicking here. Once you get your images in order click here to read the complete Google algorithm and see how to get your hotel to number 1 in Google.


Want some more advice or tips, email me completely free

4 + 7 =

Share This