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This is the type of user-generated content hotels really don't mind embracing: Inspirational images taken by fans -- all for free.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts announced today that the hotel giant, which has nine brands spread among properties around the world, would integrate Instagram photos and videos into its hotels’ websites. The brand will use geo-tagging to identify content created at the hotels.

“With an increasingly mobile, digital traveler we expect social sharing in places like our Instagram Guest Gallery pages will continue to change how our guests book travel and explore and interact with our hotels,” Chris Holdren, Senior Vice President, Starwood Preferred Guest & Digital said in a statement. The Instagram integration is not currently present on the company’s SPG app for mobile phones or tablets.

Starwood’s most popular brands with guests on Instagram are Sheraton, W Hotels, and St. Regis, in that order. The brands are active on the service, too, as are the individual properties.

It’s been a long road from hating user-generated reviews on sites like TripAdvisor in the late 1990s and early 2000s to the recent embrace hotels have given to services that allow guests to have their say — in words or images — about their property.

Starwood was the first major hotel brand to include unedited ratings and reviews on all of its hotel websites. Guests posts 250 reviews a day on average. Even Four Season’s made a move and added user reviews from TripAdvisor when it launched its new website in 2012. While other properties have made use of Instagram images — or Instagram-inspired images — in their advertising, Starwood is the first to add them to its properties’ websites.

The new “Guest Galleries from Instagram” are visible on properties’ “Photo and Video” pages and identified as “Guest Gallery” beneath the hotel’s official photo and video galleries. At properties with too few Instagram photos, there is no link to guest galleries.

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Tags: instagram, social media, starwood, ugc

Photo credit: A guest image from the Sheraton's Maldives property. Starwood

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