Is It Okay For Hotels To Photoshop Pictures?

Is It Okay For Hotels To Photoshop Pictures?

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I’m curious to hear how OMAAT readers feel about this…

Hotels using photoshopped marketing pictures

Reader Richard was looking at the Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in the United Arab Emirates, and noticed something interesting. When you go to Marriott’s webpage for this hotel, you’ll see the below picture.

Le Meridien Al Aqah Resort (credit: Marriott)

Okay, most of the picture looks normal, but what’s going on at the top left, with that flat green area? Is that a swamp? A polo field? A farm? After all, the color looks a bit off, and that’s not where the sea would be.

Well, as it turns out, it’s none of those things. Rather that’s where the neighboring InterContinental Fujairah Resort is located. If you look at the Google Street View from a similar angle, you’ll see the InterContinental in the background, as it’s the white building to the left.

Google Street View of Le Meridien Al Aqah Resort

I then checked out the website of the InterContinental Fujairah Resort, as I was curious if that hotel was doing any editing. Nope, the hotel was simply a bit more strategic with its angles, and instead blurs out the background in some pictures (though presumably for different reasons, as the Le Meridien isn’t visible in any of the pictures).

InterContinental Fujairah Resort (credit: IHG)

Is it acceptable for hotels to photoshop marketing pictures?

Some may remember my saga last summer at the Aegon Mykonos, a Marriott Autograph Collection property. Not only did the hotel photoshop the power lines out of marketing photos, but the hotel then lied about doing so.

The Aegon Mykonos pool with power lines

Is the practice of hotels photoshopping pictures reasonable, is it misleading, or both? Here’s my take:

  • Whether we like it or not, this is an all-too-common practice, unfortunately, as I’ve started to notice more since the Aegon Mykonos situation
  • I think it’s common and fine for hotels to take pictures with strategic angles, and/or make sure everything looks as good as it possibly can, as that’s what you expect with marketing
  • I tend to think it’s problematic if the photoshopping might actually mislead consumers about features or the general beauty of the hotel; for example, I think the power lines in the above picture do take away from the beauty of the pool, compared to what was being marketed
  • I find the Le Meridien Al Aqah photoshop to be weird, though I’m not sure the (nicer looking) InterContinental next door really takes away from the beauty of the Le Meridien; I almost wonder if the picture is photoshopped so that people don’t go looking what the hotel next door might be, and book there instead

Bottom line

Hotels seem to photoshop marketing pictures a lot more than you’d expect, and the above observation by Richard is just the latest example of that. Personally I find this practice to be frustrating and misleading across the board. That being said, it doesn’t bother me that much if the thing being photoshopped doesn’t materially impact the guest experience.

I’m curious to hear where OMAAT readers stand. What’s the worst case you’ve seen of a hotel photoshopping pictures? Do you think it’s ever acceptable, and if so, under what circumstances?

Conversations (34)
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  1. Euro Aviation Guest

    Marketing is all about accentuating the positive and minimizing the negative. Exuberant marketing staff can get carried away towards false advertising.

  2. TheAirlineKid Guest

    While we are at it, had an amazing stay at the Intercontinental Fujairah earlier this year.

    Tends to get a bit crowded around the UAE school breaks, but its a great option for an otherwise under-visited part of the UAE.

  3. iamhere Guest

    That's why checking reviews is important. Then you see what the hotel, rooms, lounge (if applicable), breakfast, etc really looks like. Everyone knows that the promotional material is made to look more than it is. Ever see the photos on a menu or for an apartment for sale?

  4. Schar Gold

    this is why I ALWAYS look at Trip Advisor and Google Maps most recent "Traveler Photos" as well as Youtube videos and other social media posts to accurately see hotels and what they're REALLY like. its annoying when hotels photoshop or purposefully lack in depth property description and only post "2 room pictures" and stuff, but hey what are ya gonna do lol. thats why peoples posts are always the best source

  5. Mike1977 Guest

    Stayed at a hotel in Southern California once. We knew it was located near a highway which was not a problem. A freight train line has been photo shopped out of the pictures. The freight train ran in between the highway and the hotel and ran at all hours of the night. It was terrible!

  6. glenn t Diamond

    Put aside the indignation about photoshopping views etc. and focus on the promised facilities, attractions, and services glowingly described in the businesses advertising which are either non-existent, 'temporarily' closed, or scaled back to almost nothing.
    All due to Covid you understand, and not in the least due to cost-cutting, or inability to recruit staff prepared to work for peanuts.
    Time to name and shame these places, although most are thoroughly shameless unfortunately.

    Put aside the indignation about photoshopping views etc. and focus on the promised facilities, attractions, and services glowingly described in the businesses advertising which are either non-existent, 'temporarily' closed, or scaled back to almost nothing.
    All due to Covid you understand, and not in the least due to cost-cutting, or inability to recruit staff prepared to work for peanuts.
    Time to name and shame these places, although most are thoroughly shameless unfortunately.

  7. Adele Guest

    My opinion on photoshopping any photo meant to be a “faithful” representation - be it a house, a room or a person - is that if the editing is of something that can easily be changed with just a little work, or will pass on its own - it’s ok.

    Covering up a pimple or editing hair to look less messy - that’s all fine. Removing some trash from the ground or changing the...

    My opinion on photoshopping any photo meant to be a “faithful” representation - be it a house, a room or a person - is that if the editing is of something that can easily be changed with just a little work, or will pass on its own - it’s ok.

    Covering up a pimple or editing hair to look less messy - that’s all fine. Removing some trash from the ground or changing the light to look like sunset - that’s ok too. If there was a filter to make a messy bed look made, I surely would use that myself ;)

    Editing a picture to look like something the real thing does not, cannot and will never look like - that’s misrepresentation or fraud - depending on how much money is at stake.

  8. FTF Guest

    A long time I ago I booked a hotel in Pattaya Beach, Thailand. The pictures showed a beachfront hotel across a quiet street from a gorgeous sandy beach. In hindsight the price was just too good for the pictures. Arriving late at night in a taxi we did not notice the surroundings. We arose early that first morning to watch the sun come up over the beach. We were stunned to find that we were...

    A long time I ago I booked a hotel in Pattaya Beach, Thailand. The pictures showed a beachfront hotel across a quiet street from a gorgeous sandy beach. In hindsight the price was just too good for the pictures. Arriving late at night in a taxi we did not notice the surroundings. We arose early that first morning to watch the sun come up over the beach. We were stunned to find that we were 8-10 long blocks from the beach, the hotel was surrounded by power lines where the photos had shown palm trees. It was clean and had a decent restaurant and was probably priced correctly for its location. When we questioned the desk clerks, it merited a shrug of the shoulders, a coupon for a "free" massage and a giggly "mai pen rai"? (Never mind!) Have always done a lot more research since that happening!

    1. Maryland Guest

      Remember similar stories. Hotels advertising beach front, photo shopped as beach front yet required a tuktuk to find the beach! Sawdika.

  9. snic Diamond

    Interesting question. I've stayed in a zillion AirBnBs and never thought to myself, "did they photoshop those pictures, because this looks nothing like what's in the listing." That's because reviewers WILL call the host out on that. I absolutely do not book listings where reviewers say the pictures are wrong; if the host is willing to fib with that, what else are they going to lie and misrepresent?

    But with hotels, it seems that people...

    Interesting question. I've stayed in a zillion AirBnBs and never thought to myself, "did they photoshop those pictures, because this looks nothing like what's in the listing." That's because reviewers WILL call the host out on that. I absolutely do not book listings where reviewers say the pictures are wrong; if the host is willing to fib with that, what else are they going to lie and misrepresent?

    But with hotels, it seems that people tend not to criticize them too much for misleading pictures. For one thing, people book hotels on all sorts of platforms, not just the hotel's own website. So I get the impression that because they're not often criticized for it, hotels feel more free to photoshop.

  10. Hobbs Guest

    That photo is obviously suspect, I don’t see how it could dupe anyone. I Google Map every property, from satellite to street view.

  11. T. Jones Guest

    Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort should probably find someone a little more skilled at photoshopping. The photo might actually be more appealing WITH the Intercontinental off to the side instead of some strange green blob that looks completely out of place!

  12. Eskimo Guest

    Just like Tinder, the most you have to do is spend 1 night together.

    If people are doing it on Tinder, how can they dare judge hotels for doing it. (Not even to the point of discussing whether it's ok or not)

    Everybody does it.
    Some call it lies, others call it exaggeration, protecting self-esteem, bending truth, or lawyers.

  13. Mantis Guest

    No. It's false advertising. Would you be OK with Apple photoshopping their phones to look significantly different? Or Tesla photoshopping their cars? In the US, any time in a commercial there is something that is not exactly as it is in reality, you will notice at the bottom of the screen there is a disclaimer...even when it is so obviously not real for dramatic effect. No disclaimer on those hotel pics. There's a reason why...

    No. It's false advertising. Would you be OK with Apple photoshopping their phones to look significantly different? Or Tesla photoshopping their cars? In the US, any time in a commercial there is something that is not exactly as it is in reality, you will notice at the bottom of the screen there is a disclaimer...even when it is so obviously not real for dramatic effect. No disclaimer on those hotel pics. There's a reason why this seems to happen more often in the EU and ME, and not in the US. It would be an easy lawsuit here.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Naive Mantis.

      Apple, Tesla, and every professional photo uses Photoshop.

      Please file a lawsuit against them, they don't have disclaimers.

    2. Mantis Guest

      Oh Eskimo, stop being willfully ignorant with your false equivalency. Apple doesn't Photoshop in an additional camera, Tesla doesn't Photoshop in a new heads up display, or some other feature that is not even available. Photoshopping as production value is very different than photoshopping out a neighboring large property that greatly changes the utility of the product.

    3. Eskimo Guest

      Oh Mantis, stop being willfully naive with your false equivalency.
      Le Meridien Al Aqah Resort did not add extra swimming pools either.

      Your idea of production value is different to theirs.
      Your idea of the utility is different to theirs.

      Prove me wrong, please file a lawsuit against them.

  14. Maryland Guest

    If they're selling a view, and the view is not actually there, seems fraudulent. And I'm already too busy busting them over highly questionable fees!

  15. Ann Guest

    Just like fake reviews, every single chain with a big enough budget photoshops or at least uses creative angles.
    Hyatts are particularly bad at this.

    Just look at traveler photos on tripadvisor instead of management ones.

  16. Donna Diamond

    Everyone seems focused on the outside renderings being photoshopped. A bigger problem for me is the room representation. And this can take the form of actual photoshopping but also just blatant misrepresentation of the actual product in that they show a large well appointed room in the advertising but an itty bitty dumpy broom closet actually awaits you upon check in.

  17. 305 Guest

    Check any rendering for a pre-construction condo in Miami, and there's multiple misleading photoshop jobs done in the context (the best is the one that turns the FPL substation in downtown into a forest).

    Heck, some developers even try and hide future phases/towers in the same project. I find this even more of an issue, as a condo purchase is much more money than a hotel stay. It's blatant lying and manipulation

  18. Too Many Guest

    It's a sliding scale from making the property look nicer to outright false advertising. It really is dependent on each situation. Removing clutter from a beach to clean up how busy it looks probably isn't going to go past the bounds. Removing a structure to be able to claim unobstructed views as a selling point, that's false advertising.

  19. Sel, D. Guest

    Similarly, it’s also misleading when hotels fail to update photos after significant changes to the hotel or surrounding areas. Without naming names, one hotel uses pictures of a large beachfront in recurring social media posts, while the beach has actually eroded approximately 80%.

  20. LEo Diamond

    A different approach, as opposed to photoshop, would be to change the original image on Google Drawing and add a shape with text (not related to the hotel) on the IC side. It's very likely that the owners of these two hotels are at odds with one another.

  21. JetSetFly Guest

    I think blurring out adjacent properties is fine although that always make me search out what they are blurring…. Is it a super high rise that’s looking directly into main pool of the hotel I’m considering staying at? Or a low rise that doesn’t effect me in any shape or form. Taking away electricity poles that’s next to the main pool using photoshop is def a no no for me. One should always do extensive...

    I think blurring out adjacent properties is fine although that always make me search out what they are blurring…. Is it a super high rise that’s looking directly into main pool of the hotel I’m considering staying at? Or a low rise that doesn’t effect me in any shape or form. Taking away electricity poles that’s next to the main pool using photoshop is def a no no for me. One should always do extensive research because at the end of the day, you are best at protecting your hard earn money.

  22. Jed Guest

    If they are just removing a competing hotel from the picture, then I'm okay with that. It could also be misleading if there are two hotels in your picture, as it might not be extremely clear that the other hotel is not part of your hotel.

  23. JS Guest

    I'm really curious as to your definition of "photoshopping". Apparently bucket filling an area with solid green color constitutes photoshopping, but blurring it out does not?

    1. ML Guest

      They did more than bucket fill an area with green. They removed a massive resort to make it appear their hotel has no neighbors, which is false. Blurring something only makes the unwanted object, well, blurry.

  24. DenB Diamond

    And I thought I was the King of snark.

    Believing pictures are accurate representations of the property is like visiting a website with thousands of free posts, believing it's all free and being indignant that the card links compensate the blogger.

    We all know where to get raw pics of hotels and travellers' comments. They're readily available. So Yes, it's acceptable for hotels to post somewhat modified pics. I don't expect McDonalds to show a...

    And I thought I was the King of snark.

    Believing pictures are accurate representations of the property is like visiting a website with thousands of free posts, believing it's all free and being indignant that the card links compensate the blogger.

    We all know where to get raw pics of hotels and travellers' comments. They're readily available. So Yes, it's acceptable for hotels to post somewhat modified pics. I don't expect McDonalds to show a Whopper side by side with their Big Mac.

    It's a corporation. It's not gonna love you back.

  25. frrp Member

    Photoshopping isnt acceptable. At some point someoner will claim misrepresentation and want compensation

  26. pstm91 Diamond

    Interesting discussion. I was actually prepared to take the hotels' side, saying all industries manipulate photos/ads for marketing purposes. However, actual Photoshopping of a photo to remove actual features, surroundings, etc. is blatant false advertising. It's one thing to touch up a photo or strategically angle it to make it look as nice as possible, but removing or covering things to hide them is lying to the consumer. I'm interested how anyone could argue against...

    Interesting discussion. I was actually prepared to take the hotels' side, saying all industries manipulate photos/ads for marketing purposes. However, actual Photoshopping of a photo to remove actual features, surroundings, etc. is blatant false advertising. It's one thing to touch up a photo or strategically angle it to make it look as nice as possible, but removing or covering things to hide them is lying to the consumer. I'm interested how anyone could argue against that.

    1. Kafka Guest

      Wonder if the resort next door didn't give consent to appear in their photos, or if they just didn't want to ask. When trying to decide if someone's being devious, lazy, or incompetent, it's rarely the first.

  27. Nico Z Guest

    Photoshopping hotel photos is as acceptable as publishing blog posts with affiliate links that aren’t clearly marked as such.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Mike R Guest

Just wait until you join Tinder.

3
pstm91 Diamond

Interesting discussion. I was actually prepared to take the hotels' side, saying all industries manipulate photos/ads for marketing purposes. However, actual Photoshopping of a photo to remove actual features, surroundings, etc. is blatant false advertising. It's one thing to touch up a photo or strategically angle it to make it look as nice as possible, but removing or covering things to hide them is lying to the consumer. I'm interested how anyone could argue against that.

3
Adele Guest

My opinion on photoshopping any photo meant to be a “faithful” representation - be it a house, a room or a person - is that if the editing is of something that can easily be changed with just a little work, or will pass on its own - it’s ok. Covering up a pimple or editing hair to look less messy - that’s all fine. Removing some trash from the ground or changing the light to look like sunset - that’s ok too. If there was a filter to make a messy bed look made, I surely would use that myself ;) Editing a picture to look like something the real thing does not, cannot and will never look like - that’s misrepresentation or fraud - depending on how much money is at stake.

2
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