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Friday, January 9, 2009

The role of photography in Hospitality marketing

No photos this time. While I'm not exactly impartial regarding this subject, it doesn't mean that I can't have a valid point of view. So, here goes.

We've all heard of the common guest complaint that the photos represented a distorted view of a property - basically, they made it seem better than it was. Yet, I'm sure that the converse of this must be far more prominent . . . . . but who is going to tell their host that the place looked like a dump on Expedia and they only booked the location as a last resort, but were pleasantly surprised as to how nice it was?

The lost business because of poor photography is probably more than anyone can imagine. But it's a hidden reason and therefore, incalculable. It seems that paying for decent photography is considered a last resort, or an evil necessity, by some. The number of Resort Condo sales efforts that I have seen where the shots were taken by someone in the Real Estate Sales office, are staggering. I've seen numerous million dollar plus Condos featuring nothing more than underexposed snapshots from (presumably) the Agent's "Point and Shoot" camera. Ouch!

Decent photography should pay for itself many times over and the cost of such should be considered to be an investment, not a liability. Howard J. Wolff, a Senior VP at WATG (big deal Architects) recently Blogged about "Design as a Differentiator - What are the Drivers?", and his observations are as true of Photography as they are of Architecture and Design. I'm going to steal some of his points here and quote him.

"Today's travellers are looking for four things: a connection with people and places; physical and psychological comfort; a greater choice of guestrooms and amenities; and convenience. And they want to feel that they are getting these things at great value. Owners, operators and developers who understand the public's changing demands stand the best chance of capturing the lion's share of business in today's competitive environment. Successful destinations mirror the co-existing desires of their guests."

Well said Howard, and it is photography's job to provide tangible illustration to entice and satisfy a potential guest's desires from a location, as you have outlined. This is not to diminish the role of good copy. I think that photography is just a learned talent, while writing is a real gift. The ability to use words that allow us to conjure up mental images is an amazing ability and the perfect companion for good photography. They're like ham and cheese. Either one is good by itself, but put them both in a sandwich and they're even better.

Given the current financial debacle, new projects are being cancelled left and right, while some of the larger, long term ones like Cap Cana in the DR, are laying off and slowing to a crawl, and even swanky Destination Clubs like Lusso are going into Chapter 11. As one of the (near) bottom feeders in this food chain, Resort Photography takes a big hit too. It is only natural and prudent that companies start to cut back as they try to weather the storm. However, this situation is also a savvy marketer's dream. If my competition is going into hiding, and I continue my marketing efforts, unabated, I should really stand out from the crowd. Of course, that presumes that I believe that advertising and marketing leads to sales and if I don't, I shouldn't have been doing either in the first place.

While I wouldn't go as far as to say you can spend your way out of trouble, I do know that you can rein in so far that further trouble is almost inevitable. As for me, I'm long enough in the tooth that it really doesn't matter. It is nice to have a reason to get up in the morning though. I think it's called, going to work - for those of us who are fortunate enough to love what we do for a living. In the meantime, there's a new guy in the White House tomorrow, guess we'll find out what he's made of soon enough.