Author Sebastyne Young, once said “A picture can tell a thousand words, but a few words can change its story.”
We stress the importance of visuals regularly, but it’s important to remember that short, snackable text descriptions are vital for offering depth and context to your hotel’s visual story.
Online consumers stay on a website for only 10-12 seconds on average, so text needs to be succinct and captivating to keep travel shoppers engaged (Microsoft Research). Having too much “filler text” can dilute your message and overwhelm a potential guest. Consider this quote from Ernest Hemingway, often referred to as the shortest story ever told. It’s a mere 6 words in length, but shockingly poignant.
Let’s cut to the chase, read these 7 fundamental Best Practice tips for accenting your images by focusing on the words you use to tell your story!
1. Start with a warm welcome
A warm reception coupled with relevant information will keep travel shoppers craving more. Your introductory text should welcome travel shoppers and invite them to take a look around your hotel – virtually!
Highlight the major selling features of your hotel including:
- Proximity to airport and popular area attractions
- Complimentary services included with the stay – highlight guest preferences such as free Wi-Fi, breakfast, etc.
- Distinguishing features that make your hotel stand out from the competition such as express check in/out, shuttle service, a basket of muffins at the front desk, etc.
- Feature amenities that will appeal to your target customer segment such as a computer area and meeting rooms for business travelers or a pool for leisure travelers
A recent study revealed that travel shoppers visit an average of 38 travel sites before making a booking (Expedia Media Solutions). The initial impression is a lasting one, so make sure that the first thing a guest experiences is a compelling and engaging reflection of your hotel’s personality and its story. Use powerful, entertaining language to accompany your rich visuals to get their attention.
2. Not all hotel amenities are created equal
Data collected by Leonardo revealed the top 10 images hotel shoppers view on travel websites, and guest rooms come in at #1 by a large margin. Armed with the knowledge that your guests want to see rooms first, the Holiday Inn Denver Lakewood displays these photos beautifully, and accents each one with concise, informative text descriptions. Provide your complete story with expressive copy, and be sure to highlight features and amenities that are exclusive to each room type, just as the Holiday Inn Lakewood has done. Additionally, include the details of what might not be obvious in the image such as the view, specialty bedding, wet bar, walkout balcony, or large bathroom.
Online readers are partial to scanning webpages quickly, so address this behavior by using bulleted lists of room details and italic or bolded words as appropriate.
3. Give them reasons to choose an upgraded room
You can inspire leisure guests to upgrade their room by appealing to their desire for luxury and getting the most value for their money. Vacationers get more and more excited as their trip approaches, so use stunning visuals paired with text descriptions to highlight any value-added perks that guests can expect with an upgrade, over and above a standard room package.
Keep business travelers up-to-date with special upgrade offers, making their frequent trips on the road a little more pleasant. As an example, present them with the benefits of your concierge floor program using vivid photos of the space, supplemented with straightforward descriptive text.
The JW Marriott Marquis Miami does an excellent job of using succinct and snackable text descriptions to support powerful visuals of their “concierge level guest rooms”
4. Show off what you’ve got and appeal to your core audience
Highlighting all of your unique hotel amenities can set your property apart from competitors while also providing value for travel shoppers. Zero in on your target market’s interest by emphasizing the details that matter to them. Consider things like your Manager’s happy hour, kids club, or perhaps your proximity to local attractions. What are the most frequent questions you field from guests? Write helpful text descriptions that answer the questions common to your audience.
5. Specialized targets deserve customized attention
In addition to the general population of consumers who book with you, the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) audience will benefit from clear, succinct text descriptions. Describe details about your meeting & event capabilities up front and with easy to read formatting. Use a bulleted list to highlight the main features important to their shopping and planning efforts:
- Event room sizes
- Capacity and set up details
- Flexibility of the meeting space in size and layout
- Special features of the room e.g. opens to terrace
- Catering and A/V services available
- Local attractions and transportation options
6. Food, food, and more food!
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so give travel shoppers insight into your meal selections:
- Where is breakfast served?
- Is it complimentary?
- List a few menu options
- Hours of service
- Is room service available?
However, breakfast isn’t the only meal of the day, so potential guests will want to hear about your hotel’s other dining services. Knowing in advance which choices are available at or near your hotel could help them select you over your competition. This consideration is important for both full service and limited service hotels; after all, restaurants are the second most popular photo category viewed by consumers online (Leonardo, 2013).
Don’t forget to include:
- Types of cuisine
- If off-property, proximity to hotel
- Hours of operation
- Special features such as big screen TVs, ½ price wine night, and access to a kids menu are always popular
7. Create Compelling and Accurate Captions
The ultimate job of a photo caption is to quickly grab consumers’ attention as they’re scanning images looking for the “right hotel”. Therefore the caption should be written with the travel shopper’s perspective in mind.
Follow these simple rules to create the best captions every time:
- Avoid internal codes, numbers, and language that is generic and not meaningful to consumers such as EXT 123, Picture, Other, Room, etc.
- The caption should be limited in order to 3 words or 30 characters to describe the image succinctly
- Captions should accurately describe the photograph, including room type, name of restaurant or lounge, etc.
Here are a few examples of captions done right:
- Free Internet
- World Class Golf
- Lakefront Cottages
- Complimentary Breakfast
Bonus Rule-of-Thumb Tips for the Avid Hotel Marketer
Whether you write it yourself, or pull existing copy from your independent website, here are a few basics of best practice text descriptions.
- You should always use a word processor, such as Microsoft Word, to check the spelling of your text descriptions before posting them on your website
- Use several small paragraphs rather than a block of text as these are easier to read
- Break up the text and highlight important points using subheadings and bulleted lists (just like we did in this blog post!)
- Text should be relevant to each image – it is unlikely that a single text description will adequately describe all of the images on your website
- Use a time saving short cut! If your hotel is part of a brand or management company, then look to their website for pre-approved copy that you can reuse