Selling the illusion: staged vs. reality

Hotel photos are meant to make a property look shiny, clean and attractive. After all, this is the slick merchandising used to sell a customer on a hotel’s rooms, pool, restaurant and other amenities. You wouldn’t book a hotel without photos, would you?

If you’ve done your fair share of travelling, the reality rarely lives up to staged, professionally taken photographs on a website. With popular travel sites like TripAdvisor, hotel guests are telling it like it is and even sharing their own photos of properties they’ve stayed in, warts and all.

If you truly want to know what you’re in for before you book a hotel, B&B or hostel, check independent websites to make sure you’re getting what’s advertised.

Below, we’ve taken some extreme examples of photographs that showcase the illusion versus reality.

Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill

Through the magic of Photoshop, the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill has taken somewhat of an artistic license in their façade photos. On their website, the iconic Capitol Building looks so close, you could throw stones at it.

In reality, it is a bit farther down the road – .2 miles to be exact. Whilst we can’t fault the Hyatt for their sleek and updated interior decor (it’s very nice), we will shake a finger at them for being a bit cheeky with the old cut-and-paste technique. C’mon, Hyatt! Aren’t you a bit above this type of trickery?

Mandalay Beach at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino

The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas has one of the most unique and memorable pools on The Strip. Constructed to resemble a beach, the sandy shores of this 11-acre water complex surely are a welcome oasis in the desert.

Unfortunately, the hotel photo of Mandalay Beach makes it look like you’ll have the place all to yourself. The reality is that this hotel and pool is the largest in popularity and space. 3,302 guest rooms see to it that the pool is never this empty, making the fight for a sun lounger an Olympic event.

Hotel Club Florence

Located smack dab in the middle of Florence, Italy, the Hotel Club Florence is a hit and miss with guests. Why? The hotel is undeniably affordable and they’ve recently undergone a partial, yet chic renovation that includes the reception, dining and meeting spaces located on the ground floor.

Regrettably, only some of the rooms have also been kind enough to receive the same level of TLC. If the reviews on TripAdvisor are anything to go by, getting one of the redone rooms is a toss of the dice. There is no mention of the chance you may get a non-renovated room (their website sidesteps this detail) and you’ll paying the same regardless what state the room is in. Because of this, the Hotel Club Florence easily earns a spot on our naughty list.

Blue Moon Hotel

The pool at Miami’s Blue Moon Hotel is a perfect example of advantageous photo cropping and use of fish eye lenses. Whilst their website does clearly state that they have a “splash pool”, the photo leads you to believe that the pool patio extends indefinitely beyond the confines of the picture’s border.

In reality, the pool area is located at the rear of the hotel and abuts an alleyway where surrounding businesses do their loading/unloading and store rubbish dumpsters. We can’t complain about the Blue Moon itself as it’s tastefully decorated and modern, but the pool area is quite small for a hotel with 75 rooms. Oh well! You’re probably better off going to the beach, anyway.

Our advice to avoid properties that tend to stretch the truth a bit, use a reputable travel review site like TripAdvisor, Oyster, Hostelworld or Holiday Watchdog. Do your homework and never book a room based on the hotel’s website photos alone. You’ll be glad you took the extra time to suss out the truth first before booking.

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