The old adage 'a picture is worth a thousand words' certainly holds true in the travel industry. A new study from Expedia has shown how a good image on a website can boost sales conversions, Travolution reports.

Researchers used special electromyography (EMG) technology, which gauged people's facial expressions and eye gaze while they browsed hotels online.

An elevated EMG signal indicated either a positive or negative emotion, and the team quizzed travellers on their reaction to the hotel image they were being shown when the EMG technology signalled such a change.

Poor quality photos - ones which are distorted by fisheye lenses or unusual angles - evoked the most negative emotions in shoppers. Users tend to view these with suspicion, the study found.

"We know through our own data that hotels with good quality photography in their online brochure receive a conversion lift over those which have poorer images," commented Isabelle Pinson, Expedia Group's senior director of market management for the UK and Ireland.

"The most important image to include is a room with a view. Rooms with windows overlooking an attractive visual scene such as a landmark or beach evoke the most delight in online shoppers and help shoppers see themselves in the context of their trip," she added.

Online travel firms can also use the following tips to improve conversions, says Expedia:

  • Prioritise images of bedrooms with nice window views

  • Include images of secondary spaces, such as attractive terraces and restaurants

  • Images should be well-lit, and natural light used wherever possible

  • Showcase a hotel's unique features or attributes

  • Ensure that rooms/spaces are spotlessly clean and neat

  • Include photos of the bathroom

  • Avoid distorting camera techniques

  • Use both close-up and perspective shots.

Expedia and its partners use an interactive tool to gauge the effectiveness of their photographs, which helps the online travel agency root out the low-resolution images. Using this tool helps drive bookings and revenue, said Pinson. "Hoteliers want this feedback in real time so they can take action," she commented.

The tool rates photos using three different scores. "Hotels with green photo scores are more likely to convert than those with red scores," Pinson added.

According to the tool, the optimum number of photos per property is 20 or more. All photos should have a resolution of 2,880 pixels or greater, and all room types should have have four images or more on display.