A recent Today Show story got me thinking about how hotel marketing is evolving. As early as the 90’s, hotels were able to own their own marketing. They took their own photos, controlled their own copy and created fancy brochures that painted their properties in the best possible light. But there were other players. Travel agents became familiar with properties and shared their opinions and travel experts shared their experiences on the best places to stay in guide books that became standard operating manuals for anyone taking a vacation.
When the internet became the go-to source for finding information about hotels, hotels transferred the photos and marketing blurbs to the Web and continued to control the online message. The rise of Adobe Photoshop and other tools let them pretty up photos to ensure prospects were left with only the most positive images of the hotel. These images were also used by OTAs and others to market the hotels.
But with the advent of User Generated Content, social networks, personal blogs and sites such as TripAdvisor, consumers took back control and shared their own photos and experiences at hotels. They exposed the true size of the bathrooms, and the views of the garbage bins. While these sites continue to be very influencial in driving bookings, many consumers are now overwhelmed by the amount of content about hotels available today across review sites, OTAs, Twitter, Facebook and blogs. It is this tremendous volume that has left many customers confused. In addition, claims of fake reviews have left many wondering what to believe.
As a result, a new type of site is cropping up that allows consumers an unbiased look at hotels. The content, including photos, comes from travel experts. The oyster.com site says, “Our hotel investigators visit every property in person and take hundreds of honest photos so that you know what to really expect when you arrive. Our unbiased reviews analyze every facet of the hotel, from the beds of the pools, to determine how each property stands against its compeition.” At the same time, they expose the doctored photos that hotels are using to market their sites.
What do you think? Is this new type of hotel site a step forward or a step backwards? As a hotelier, how influential do you think these sites will become? Let me know in the comments section.