If chains such as Wyndham follow Hilton Worldwide's lead and enable their guests to reserve specific rooms, then photography and video will likely become an even more important part of booking and post-booking decisions.
Wyndham Hotel Group is in the midst of a multi-million dollar overhaul of its content management system, and as part of it the chain is actively considering offering curated guest photos as part of its visual mix.
Martin Smith, vice president of online retailing at Wyndham Hotel Group, said the group is “actively exploring” adding curated guest photos, and more video, including clips that would give guests a sense of things to do in hotels’ environs, although there are “no firm plans or dates.”
Rivals such as Starwood already integrate guest photos from Instagram on brand websites, and TripAdvisor enables users to upload their own photos as a counter-balance to hotels’ own marketing-oriented photography.
Wyndham Hotels, meanwhile, has signed on ICE Portal as its image-distribution vendor, dropping Leonardo VFM in the process, to serve up a maximum of 50 images per property, up from the previous 25, and at higher resolutions, Smith says.
Wyndham has completed the first phase of a transition to a new content management system, and is now working on building up its digital library for 7,540 hotels, 6,000 distribution channels, and thousands of affiliate websites around the world.
The goal, Smith says, is to give Wyndham the flexibility to distribute images in a format that works best for individual distribution channels.
Smith says Wyndham and ICE Portal will be able to support higher resolution images, which is particularly important for guests viewing images on tablets.
There is no cost to Wyndham’s franchisees for its migration of the chain’s more than 95,000 property images to ICE Portal. Franchisees can optionally contract directly with ICE Portal to create videos and 360-degree property tours.
While many hotel chains always thought of exterior photography of properties as an overriding concern, Wyndham is coming to a different conclusion.
“Room images are on top of customers’ minds,” Smith says. “The exterior has always been a mainstay, we thought, but it is less critical to consumers that the room they would like to stay in.”
Since overhauling its website a couple of years ago, Wyndham often shows photography of each room type, and the chain intends to add more video showing the breakfast buffet and the hotel gym, for example, Smith says.
In a multi-device environment, and given the global expanse of Wyndham’s franchisee relationships, the chain is also putting new emphasis on textual property descriptions, which is handled by a team at Wyndham headquarters in New Jersey, supplemented by an operations center in Canada.
Data needs to be well-structured as the property descriptions might be short on a mobile site, longer for tablets and even longer for desktops, Smith says.
“In times of yore, it was simply yes or no, do you have a swimming pool,” Smith says.
Those days are gone.
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Photo credit: A king room at the Days Inn & Suites in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Wyndham Hotel Group