Double check hotel “glamour shots”

9 Aug

What is true in social networking is also true for hotels — looks can be deceiving. Just as you pick the most flattering snapshot for your facebook profile, so hotels want their websites to showcase their amenities in the best possible light. And with a professional photographer, that’s not hard to do.

In the days leading to the shoot, the hotel staff scurries around, making sure the lawn is manicured, the model room is orderly and well-appointed, and a fresh coat of paint is applied to the exterior trim. The photographer then has his ninety minutes to capture the essential feel of the resort in little frames, leaving out any unsightly detail and picking only the most becoming vantage points. Of course, the real magic happens when the photographer retreats behind his computer to touch up, brighten, and crop.

Equipped with these photos, the hotel’s website dazzles and charms. But there’s no guarantee that the facilities look as good in-person, or that the hotel hasn’t changed in the months or even years since the photo shoot.

Tripadvisor.com is infinitely helpful here. The site features traveler reviews, of course, but it also allows users to upload photos of the places they’ve stayed. You can compare those photos — taken in ordinary lighting, usually with a point-and-shoot camera — to the ones on a website, and you get a feel for what the hotel actually looks like day-to-day.

I recently did this while researching The Caves in Jamaica for a possible vacation this winter. On The Cave’s website, the Moonshadow room looks like a very charming little space with hardwood floors, whitewashed walls trimmed in green, and a natural roof. Warm light emanates from just beyond the bed, inviting the traveler to enter and rest awhile.

Now compare this image to a picture of the same room on tripadvisor.com. As you can see, the room is still cute, but it has a distinctly different vibe. Without the benefit of well-placed lighting, and with the addition of the rattan lantern, the blue floor, and the green and rust colored linens, the space takes on a more funky, cluttered appearance.

In this instance, the difference isn’t going to deter me from visiting The Caves (in fact, the reviews of The Caves are so positive, I’m tempted to hop on a Jamaica-bound flight today), but it does calibrate my expectations for the room and the rest of the resort.

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