Guestroom photos on hotel websites can affect customers’ decisions to book and guests’ perceptions of the room before they check in.
With the hotel industry becoming more competitive, multiple surveys have demonstrated the importance of hotel design features for overall quality of service.
However, until the moment of check-in, customers form their guestroom design perceptions based on photo galleries available on hotel websites. Research shows the appeal of a guestroom’s environment sends a strong marketing message to potential guests and drives their service quality expectations and shapes their decisions to book at a hotel.
Drawing from marketing research literature, discussions with architects and interviews with hotel guests, a hyper-realistic, computer-generated guestroom (see above photo) environment was created for the purpose of our research to identify key features hotel guests notice when booking hotel stays.
Color schemes, design style and décor are the key contributors to the attractiveness of the interior appearance of the hotel guestroom’s physical environment.
By evaluating those factors, guests form their affective and cognitive responses to the environment, influencing their attitudes about the hotel, which creates a perception about the experience they might have if they choose to stay in the particular hotel. If the guestroom interior appears to be pleasing in the property’s website photos, guests will expect their hotel stay to be just as enjoyable.
Furthermore, guests are highly likely to share positive aspects of interior appearance with other individuals. Emphasizing the aesthetic quality of the room interior through attractive arrangement of colors, stylish accessories and decorations is prevalent for guests’ positive impressions of the hotel room and their booking intentions.
Although absolute preference for interior color or design style of a hotel room cannot be firmly established, these attributes require profound consideration during hotel development or refurbishment. Some décor elements, wall finishes or colors can be perceived as attractive on their own, but when combined together result in an undesirable interior design that deters potential guests. Thoughtfully coordinated design elements, however, can contribute to guests’ satisfactory experience.
The ability to easily navigate the environment and the spatial arrangement of furniture pieces in the guestroom contribute to evaluations of layout accessibility.
An overcrowded layout can lower guest expectations and satisfaction and deter them from making the booking decision. Staying in a cluttered room is not a wise choice for most guests. Hoteliers should provide maximum accessibility in guestroom layout through spacious furniture arrangement which directly influences guests’ expectations of the physical comfort.
For instance, a guestroom that appears small due to a king-size bed will not be perceived as an “upgrade” in the eyes of the guest, but more likely the room can appear “cluttered.” If the space arrangement of furniture is proportionate and logical, it provides adequate accessibility, which is also particularly important for elderly travelers or guests with disabilities.
To create a distinct image, many hotel companies opt for differentiating their environment from the competition through the use of costly designer furniture. Although guests recognize attractiveness and quality of furniture as a prominent element in interior design, they do not seem to place significant weight on furnishing attributes when evaluating guestroom photos.
Selecting design elements that correspond well with each other is an alternative strategy to control refurbishment costs at the expense of designer furniture. An average guest would be equally likely to stay in a guestroom with non-pretentious furnishings that fulfills basic customer needs—comfortable seating, bedding and desk space. In other words, resources typically spent on expensive, high-quality furniture manufactured by famous brands can be redirected toward details and accessories that “tie the room together.” Nevertheless, a “lifestyle hotel” guest might have contrasting design preferences, which impede the generalization to all hotel types.
The level and color of lighting in guestroom photos can make certain implications about visual comfort in the room. However, the quality and level of lighting, as long as it’s deemed acceptable based on the room images, will have little impact on guests’ expectations about the room environment.
Lighting quality fails to predict guests’ booking intentions, which means guests are only likely to notice lighting stimuli that are outside of tolerable ranges. On the contrary, when the stimuli are within an acceptable range, these tend to go unnoticed even though they could still have an effect on guests’ holistic perceptions of the room design. But one outside example comes from perceptions of international travelers, who tend to perceive the lack of ceiling light fixtures in U.S. hotel properties as odd.
Hoteliers should give equal weight to the suggestions of professional designers and feedback from hotel guests. The designers might sometimes misjudge guests’ design expectations, which can result in failed investments and dissatisfied customers who are willing to spread negative word-of-mouth comments about the quality of the guestrooms.
Conducting market research by surveying a population of hotel guests on their design preferences of highly photo-realistic guestroom environments is a quick and feasible way to predict their behavior in the physical guestroom environment. In addition, this method can be used to identify optimal design solutions that would be valued by the desired market segment.
About the authors
Vanja Bogicevic, M.Arch, M.S., is a Ph.D. student of Consumer Sciences and a lecturer at the Department of Human Sciences, at the Ohio State University. She received awards from graduate student research conferences. Her research interests include service environments design, healthcare design, inclusive design, virtual reality applications in service industries, and consumer behavior in hospitality establishments. Bogicevic’s professional background and experience is in architecture and interior design consulting services.
Hyeyoon Choi is an Assistant Professor of Restaurant, Hotel and Tourism in the Department of Human and Consumer Sciences at Ohio University. She received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, and M.S. from Purdue University. She teaches hospitality courses in Convention and Event Planning, Workshop in Customer Service, Hospitality Senior Seminar, and Seminar in Human and Consumer Sciences. Her research has always been customer-behavior-oriented in Hospitality industry and fits within the larger context of Service Management and Operations. It includes hotel operations, environmentally friendly behaviors, and health and wellness service. She has published in numerous refereed journals and proceedings of professional conferences.
Milos Bujisic, Ph.D is an assistant professor of Hospitality Management in the Department of Human Sciences, at the Ohio State University. He has ten years of experience in the international trade and hospitality industry. He published refereed journal papers in International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, Information Technology & Tourism, and Journal of Foodservice Business Research and presented refereed conference and invited papers. His research is focused on customer experience in different service settings such as hospitals, hotels, restaurants and air travel. Additionally, he worked on studies related to revenue management, lodging sales, pricing, and information systems.
About the SHARE Center
The SHARE Center provides universities with large volumes of different types of hotel and tourism data, as well as related resources, for research, student projects and classroom use. Launched in 2011, there are over 450 member universities around the world. The SHARE Center also offers the “Certification in Hotel Industry Analytics” together with AHLEI and ICHRIE, which is the leading certification for students and professors in Hospitality and Tourism programs. Complimentary memberships are available to introduce new schools to all of the data, sample reports, publications and additional materials.