Emotion and hotel websites – does yours have sex appeal?

NB: This is a guest article by Martin Soler, marketing director of World Independent Hotels Promotion (WIHP).

Ask a seasoned salesman what finally drove the sale. Indeed, analyse TV and print commercials that work to find the common driving point that generated the sale.

In almost every case you will see that emotion was the driver.

Why does celebrity endorsement work? How does beauty affect a buying decision? The answer almost certainly always lies in emotional rapport.

The same goes for hotels. In choosing, hotel guests will try to make a rational decision based on the three Ps:

  • Place
  • Product
  • Price

But the one factor that will affect the decision despite rational decision is emotion. With a great emotional impact hotels can pull guests beyond a purely rational decision.

A prominent ad man, Rob Leavitt once said

“People don’t ask for facts in making up their minds. They would rather have one good, soul-satisfying emotion than a dozen facts.”

This summarizes that logic quite well.

Look at the advertising revolution led by David Ogilvy in the 1950s and what was the huge change? Emotional impact.

Before then adverts were based on text and illustrations, most of which were printed in black and white. Suddenly full-page color ads with photographs were all the rage.

Then, in the 1960s, when DDB spearheaded the creative revolution, they added emotional impact through great photography plus a new type of copywriting, one that grabbed the reader’s emotions and made them re-think their habits.

Why did boutique hotels have such a success when they started in the 1980s? Because the individually decorated rooms and hotels delivered a new and exciting emotional response.

Hotels are visual, unless you’re competing solely for the lowest price on the market – so, they are about seeing, touching, sensing and experiencing comfort.

And how should hotels deliver that emotional impact, especially in the crowded world of web marketing, appealing to travellers BEFORE they make that critical booking?

Of course they can devise great tag lines and sexy copy. But nothing delivers more than photography, especially on the web.

Great photography is great emotion

To deliver a high emotional impact, a hotel must have great photography. The rooms, the surroundings, the lobby must all be shot by expert photographers that can communicate through those images the quality and experience that guests can expect.

Rooms and environment must be presented in a way that they elicit and emotional response. Just showing the environment the way the camera sees it will not elicit any response.

Here is an example of emotional impact in good photography.


Or this:

Size does matter

Showing a great photo on one quarter of the screen has almost no impact. The bigger the picture the bigger the impact. And if you’re worried that it’ll push off the text from your site, ask yourself when you last booked a hotel because there was great text on the home page.

If you want to see the difference in size and how it affects emotion, compare the photo galleries of Google Plus with those of Flickr or other, older photo sharing sites.

We started making full-screen hotel websites in 2008 and rapidly saw a huge difference in website conversion. Some of the pioneer hotels haven’t had their websites modified since and they still work better than most other competing sites.

See the difference in emotional impact on photo size from these two sites – both boutique hotels designed by Christian Lacroix and both extraordinary properties.

The first is Hotel Petit Moulin:

And then Hotel Bellechasse:

Speed impacts emotion

While this may not seem evident and may even seem contradictory to the prior, a slow site worsens emotional impact.

Notice how waiting in line at the airport reduces the excitement of your vacations? At first you’ll probably feel annoyed at the end you’ll be irritated, perhaps even worse.

Always worth remembering how pleased you are when you arrive at a hotel and have immediate service – that should be replicated online.

Any time lost waiting lowers the emotional impact. So you must make those huge images load incredibly fast. It’s a challenge but it’s going to affect your bottom line.


If you want to raise your average price you need a great property with great interior design and service and if you want to increase direct bookings you need a great website that will show every penny worth of ADR with a great emotional impact.

Failing to deliver that emotional impact will relegate you to price competition only – and that’s a hard battle to win.

NB: This is a guest article by Martin Soler, marketing director of World Independent Hotels Promotion (WIHP).

NB2: Palace image via Photoserge.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail to someone

About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Disarm Doors

    Yes, we are indeed visual creatures.

    Really liked this post.

    It is, however, important that guests expectations aren’t raised to stratospheric levels by touched-up images. Just keep them real and gorgeous.

    This website has been around for YEARS now, and I still think it’s one of the best in the industry:


    One glance at its incredible images and my wallet makes its own way out of my pocket.

  2. Emotion and hotel websites, do you have sex appeal? | WIHP Magazine

    […] originally published this article on Tnooz, here it is for our subscribers and […]

  3. ramonb

    i agree with Peter that full-screen sites have to be built with higher visual standards. thanks Martin for sharing

  4. Peter Fabricius

    Good post Martin,

    I feel that building a full-screen website for a businesses comes with the responsibility of consulting that businesses on good photography.

    On a full-screen screen site photography will in most cases reduce the effect and purpose of other design elements such as typography, grids and palettes – making it super dependent on the quality of the images.

    One of my pet peeves are tourism businesses using full-screen templates, only to fill them with mediocre photographs. Nothing emotional about that. I’ve noted that many smaller independent establishments don’t see value in spending big chunks of their marketing budgets on shoots when they already have a library which ‘has been working for them’ and already have to pay for a site redesign.

    I think what you guys did with Convert is an example of how full-screen sites can work really well though.

    • Martin Soler

      Peter, yes you are so right about that. We select photographers that we know can do it ensure there is a high quality shoot. For hotel’s that don’t have anything to show we’re not going to use the emotional impact as a big sales point since that’ll just be a large disappointment when guests arrive.
      Emotional impact only works when there’s a product that has something to show. In those cases we try to “design” as little as possible and let the hotel sell itself. However cheaper hotels or less interesting hotels must push other elements such as location or rate in order to sell.
      Thanks for the note on Convert. We’re happy you liked it.

  5. Ahmed Sultan, ITC

    Hotels with sex appeals?
    Is it enough to know that hotels are naturally built naked?
    What about externally covering the hotels with some products specially designed by Victoria’s Secrets?

  6. Louise Meyer

    And remember, it’s not just about reaching emotions and presenting on your own website….people shopping for travel look at many sites as they are narrowing down their choices. So, make sure your great photography is shown everywhere people are shopping for travel.

  7. Neil MacLean

    If there is one emotion you have to avoid it is rage from slow-loading websites.
    That is when emotion can be a driver in all the wrong directions.
    Full size images are great when they have been optimised to within a pixel of their lives and are served from a CDN. Otherwise, your customers might be ready to throw their laptops out of the window.
    Oh and I agree waiting in an airport queue might dampen holiday excitement but similarly if they have to wait for a flash slideshow to load the other emotion internet users experience is boredom. Zzzz.
    It’s a bit of a balancing act isn’t it?

    • Martin Soler

      Hi Neil, you’re absolutely right. Speed is key! The emotional impact of a fast loaded website amplifies everything. CDN and optimization is key we spend a lot of time on that point alone.


Newsletter Subscription

Please subscribe now to Tnooz’s FREE daily newsletter.

This lively package of news and information from Tnooz’s web site provides a convenient digest of what’s happening in technology that drives the global travel, tourism and hospitality market.

  • Cancel