As part of the most ambitious global photographic assignment ever undertaken within
the hotel industry, international photography company PhotoWeb has been commissioned by IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) to photograph 3,500 of its hotels across the Americas. The multi-million dollar contract will create a bank of over 100,000 still images and virtual tours, enabling guests to get the best ever picture of hotel rooms and facilities when they book online.
IHG is the world’s largest hotel group by number of guest rooms: 650,000 in over 4,500 hotels. The eighteen month project which will be completed by the end of 2010 involves a fifty-strong team of PhotoWeb photographers in the US, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America working across IHG’s well recognised and respected brands: InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo®, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn® Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express®, Staybridge Suites® and Candlewood Suites®.
With hotel research and booking now done almost entirely on the web, the impetus for this unprecedented investment came from research carried out by IHG which showed that high quality photography had a strong positive impact on booking levels.
“Our research has shown that professional, high quality images improve our brand perception and online sales, especially if the images are consistent across all of the properties” said Steve Sickel, IHG Senior Vice President of Distribution and Relationship Marketing. “People expect to be able to make informed comparisons and decisions online, so the most important thing for our potential guests is to be able to see accurate, realistic and high quality photographs of our rooms and facilities, including virtual tours.”
Each of the 3,500 participating IHG hotels will receive a package of 33 images, including both still photos, and 360 degree virtual tours images which rotate slowly on their own, together with a zoom facility. These are ideal for providing a panoramic view, allowing guests to explore every area from floor to ceiling.
PhotoWeb is using Canon 5D mark II 21 megapixel camera systems, selected for their ability to enlarge up to 40 foot billboard size, and custom made rotators chosen to ensure the highest degree of virtual tour precision. All project photographers participated in an intensive three day seminar where they were trained in how to achieve the high standards and levels of consistency required by IHG.
David Firestone, Project Director for PhotoWeb, said: “We were thrilled to be chosen and trusted with a bold project like this. In a very competitive market where customers make their decisions online, it’s surprising that many hotels haven’t yet made the investment in the right level of photography that will make their offer stand out.
“We’re shooting exclusively in raw format due to the higher quality and additional flexibility compared with the compressed jpeg format. And in line with IHG’s standards we’re not propping the shots or using models, because people want to see what their room – and the hotel – will actually be like when they arrive. We are keeping it real.”
Director, IHG Photography Project – Americas
Offices in the USA, EU, Asia & Australia
International photography company PhotoWeb has realized a technical breakthrough that until now has been beyond the reach of mobile Apple users – the ability to view panoramic virtual tours online.
This is an important development as more and more people are using mobile rather than fixed computers for their web searches. The number of global mobile search devices is predicted to grow to 1.8 billion by 2014 – outstripping the current PC and Mac internet population of 1.4 billion.
With hotel research and booking now done almost entirely on the web, and many people wanting to make informed comparisons and decisions via mobile searches as they travel, accurate and realistic virtual tours of rooms and facilities are increasingly important to PhotoWeb’s hospitality clientele.
But because Apple mobile devices haven’t so far supported Flash, Java or QuickTimeVR – the three popular virtual tour technologies available today – their users have until now been missing out on this functionality.
All that’s now changed, thanks to a recent update to the Safari web browser combined with the innovative new Universal Multimedia Viewer system developed by PhotoWeb. This can identify a mobile Apple user and automatically switch to an HTML5 code to provide full 360 degree viewing. No apps, plug-ins, downloads are needed.
“Our goal is to automatically provide all mobile devices with an image that’s exactly sized and optimized to load quickly and match the resolution of the device” said David Firestone, VP of Sales and Marketing for PhotoWeb. “So the viewer we’ve developed will recognize the device that’s being used, and source an appropriate image from a single high resolution file, using the technology preferred by the device. This means that in addition to supporting the iPad, iPod, iPhone and other small mobile devices, we can also offer optimized viewing in high resolution on larger screens, including a massive 2560 x 1440 view on a 27″ Apple iMac.”
As well as displaying virtual tours, PhotoWeb’s new viewer runs video and presents still photos, using three tabs to access all content. It includes a “book now” button that takes users straight into the booking channel, a mapping function that includes the location of the user and the hotel, and a “share” button to link to Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and hundreds of other social media sites.
PhotoWeb’s Universal MultiMedia Viewer is being implemented on thousands more travel sites and affiliates, including Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Priceline, Kayak, Yahoo, and Google – allowing visitors to finally be able to view all rich media content on their mobile devices, before deciding where to book.
Try out the new Universal MultiMedia viewer on all your devices at:
PhotoWeb was established in 1996, and recently completed the largest ever hotel photography assignment for the world’s largest hotel group, involving 3,500 IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) properties. PhotoWeb is in the process of converting all 40,000+ panoramic images of hotel rooms and facilities held on its servers to the new format that’s viewable on mobile devices.
VP Sales and Marketing
Offices in the USA, EU, Asia & Australia