Google Business Photos to Showcase Best Western Hotels

The Best Western hotel chain has signed up with Google to have the interiors and exteriors of its hotels in North America photographed so customers can see the facilities before arriving.

Google Business Photos has just signed on with the Best Western hotel chain to capture detailed 360-degree panoramic images of its 2,200 hotels in North America for travelers to view as they search for accommodations on their travels.

The service is similar to Google Street View, but aimed at businesses that want to have the insides and outsides of their buildings and grounds captured in detailed images to help lure in customers.

Best Western announced the partnership with Google recently, making it the first hotel chain to use Google Business Photos in North America, according to the company.

"Best Western's leadership and owners acted strongly and decisively on two superior market insights: consumer decision making in the hospitality category is increasingly moving online, and the Internet is becoming more of a visually-driven medium," Dorothy Dowling, the senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western, said in a statement. "It made perfect sense for Best Western, as a digital leader, to invest in this partnership with the leading online search company to offer the best experience possible."

Involvement in the program will cost Best Western member hotels about $900 each, according to a story in Hotel Management magazine.

Best Western said it hopes to have the photos of its properties completed by the end of 2014.

The hotel chain said that Google Business Photos images will provide travelers with an interactive experience when they are searching for a hotel, allowing them to be able to virtually walk through the hotel and explore lobbies, restaurants, guest rooms and more, using only a few mouse clicks. Visitors will be able to find the Google Business Photos in their Google Search results or on Google Maps, Google+ and Google Hotel Finder on any devices, according to the company.

Best Western has more than 4,000 independently owned hotels in more than 100 countries and territories around the world.

The Google Business Photos program uses the same technologies as the Google Street View imaging project, according to Google. To participate, businesses hire Google-approved and recommended photographers and related agencies that come in to capture the images and oversee the project.

"We're continually working to improve the hotel research experience on Google by providing travelers with compelling content, helping them explore travel options and book easily through our partners," David Pavelko, Google director of partnerships, told eWEEK in an emailed statement.

"Photos are a critical component people rely on when researching hotels and ultimately deciding to book a hotel," said Pavelko. "Our interactive virtual tours make online hotel research more useful and engaging."

Google's Street View project debuted in 2007 and it continues to grow as Google finds new ways to monetize the services.

Other related Google programs are also targeting more business users today. In October 2013, Google began making it easier for businesses to use online maps to attract customers and new revenue through new Google Maps Engine Pro capabilities, which included a related slew of Google Maps Engine updates. Google Maps Engine Pro was built as an application on top of the Google Maps Engine platform, which provides businesses with cloud-based technology to help them organize large datasets and create more complex maps.