Hotel Online  Special Report

Visual Marketing Turning Heads, Filling Beds
ICE Portal Says Hotels Which Audit Online Hotel Images to Accurately Represent
their Facilities and Features Are the Ones Getting the Best Bookings


MIAMI — APRIL 25, 2006 — Hoteliers who have embraced online marketing say travelers consider visuals the most important factor, after location and price, in making their travel destination decision. Companies specializing in destination travel, such as Mexico’s Palace Resorts and Fiesta Americana (a Grupo Posadas brand) and branded hotel companies such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts, rely on ICE Portal to manage and distribute their visuals to more than 20,000 travel distribution channels globally, and with the proper specifications, formatting, sizing and meta-tagging.

“Visual marketing is simple, effective and very inexpensive,” said Henry Woodman, president of ICE Portal, a hospitality company specializing in the production, management and delivery of moving media content, such as virtual tours, streaming videos and flash in multiple languages. “Some travel marketers, however, still view E-marketing as complicated, technical and costly. Just the opposite is true.  As our customers will attest, it’s almost as if the Internet were designed specifically for selling travel.”

Cancun -based Palace Resorts, a company that provides five-star, all-inclusive resort accommodations across Mexico, has been working with ICE Portal over the past five years. Ana Paradela, Palace Resorts’ director of sales for North America, said adding moving content to their destination Web site has resulted in increase bookings across all properties. 

“Because travelers are so Internet savvy, they continually look for more and more detailed information prior to making a purchase,” Paradela said. “Pictures provide the detail that savvy online bookers are looking for – and moving pictures really help to build business. We have found that a 360 degree view provides a better vision or understanding of what our properties have to offer – not from a guestroom perspective, but from an overall property or destination viewpoint. It’s incredible how much more detail comes through streaming videos and other moving pictures.”

Maira Briceno, Palace Resorts’ director of marketing for North America agreed. She said more than 5,000 unique visitors view one of the company’s online brochures each week. Palace Resorts couldn’t keep up with such demand in the print world, she said.

“As people stumble around on the Internet looking for something to buy, a great-looking picture will catch their attention and give them a reason to stop and read on,” Briceno said. “Those visuals, especially if they are moving—will inevitably close the sale.” 

Destination photos seen on the various distribution channels often entice travelers to go directly to the destination’s own Web site to book the reservation, she said. 

Fiesta Americana, voted “The Best Hotel Chain in Mexico” at the World Travel Awards, is located in Mexico's leading beach and city destinations and has been working with ICE Portal for approximately two years.  According to George Hunter, director of sales, department of leisure travel and e-commerce, “Rich, moving content sells rooms . . . period.”

“Fiesta Americana has had tremendous year-over-year growth through online bookings,” Hunter said. “The No. 1 e-commerce challenge we face is keeping our visual content current across all distribution channels. ICE makes this obstacle easy for us by sending our multimedia to everyone in the format that each requires. 

“Having a large number of properties means providing lots of information to navigate and to keep refreshed,” he said. “Our customers look straight to the visuals to help make their booking decision – whether to see specific features of the hotel or to get a glimpse of the overall destination. Unless our visuals are correctly represented, we can put ourselves at a significant disadvantage from our competition. ICE Portal gives us the technological capability and the competitive edge we need to stay a leader in the market.”

As more hotel rooms and travel are researched and sold over the Internet, the ability to effectively show a product online becomes vital, ICE Portal’s Woodman said. 

“Current research indicates that rich media, like virtual tours, generate 46 percent more bookings than still images,” he said. “From all indications, those numbers are growing, and so is our customers’ satisfaction.”

Hank Sagman, director of multimedia for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, said Starwood uses ICE Portal to host and distribute its virtual tours both for our branded Web sites and for third-party travel sites

“The reasons we partnered with ICE Portal,” Sagman said, “are threefold: They have a good footprint of travel partner sites. We know that when we give our tours to ICE Portal, they will get the widest distribution possible; 2) ICE Portal uses the best available and latest technologies so our virtual tours look great; 3) The customer service provided to Starwood by Henry Woodman is excellent. We get quick answers to our questions which result in a great partnership performance.”

Sagman said that Starwood does not use virtual tours in place of still images, noting that still imagery provides the No. 1 value to its Web users. 

“We think virtual tours provide a great added value,” Sagman said. “Virtual tours provide a travel researcher with a true knowledge of what each space looks like. We have tremendous confidence in the look and design of our properties to visually display them via a 360 degree view and we have tremendous confidence in ICE Portal to display them correctly.”

Hotels looking for rich media content management are asked to call Henry Woodman at (954) 893-6778. 

About ICE Portal

ICE Portal specializes in production, management and delivery of moving content, such as virtual tours, streaming videos and flash, in multiple languages. This enhanced content has become more important in a world with broadband users connecting to the Internet every day. The ICE (Internet Content Exchange) Portal was designed from the ground up using proprietary technology to allow tremendous flexibility of both supplier and distributors to exchange content. All the formatting, branding and sizing is done by ICE Portal, which provides hotels with valuable performance reports that track every client click. Hoteliers using ICE Portal will know what content was viewed, on which Web sites, the number of e-mail requests generated from each Web site, the most viewed images and more.

ICE Portal partnered with Leonardo to offer clients a more complete e-commerce solution. In addition to distribution in North America and Europe, ICE Portal has partnered with PREVU Corporation in Asia Pacific to deliver its content to hundreds of the top travel sites in the region. A few distribution partners include Orbitz, tour operators such as Liberty Travel and Trisept Solutions’ Vacation Access, which delivers ICE Portal’s branded content to 85,000 travel agents. Clients include Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Choice, Wyndham, Cendant and Sol Melia. For more information, visit

About Leonardo

Leonardo is the world leader in travel content management, e-marketing and content distribution across the global travel chain. Its online solutions are designed to simplify the management of rich content and the automation of distribution to the global distribution systems, travel channels and their travel partners. For all travel partners, Leonardo provides the largest one-stop aggregated source of digital content for hotels, destinations and attractions in the travel industry. 

Leonardo works with more than 50,000 hotels, including many global hotel companies, such as InterContinental, Carlson, Worldhotels, Raffles/Swissotel, Rosewood, Jumeirah International, Preferred Hotel Group, Kersner International, Small Luxury Hotels, Leading Hotels of the World, Le Meridien, Nikko, Peninsula, Starwood, Aston, Luxe and Destination Hotels and Resorts. Leonardo also works with more than 80 tourist boards, including Singapore, Portugal, The Hague, and Antigua and Barbuda. Major travel channel partners include Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre, Worldspan, Pegasus, WizCom, WorldRes,, Cheaptickets, Yahoo Travel, Opodo, Vista, Planetgo, Aergo, Widderoe and NorthStar Travel Media. For more information, visit


Barb Worcester, Principal
Tel: (440) 930-5770

Henry Woodman
ICE Portal
(954) 893-6778

Also See: WORLDHOTELS Selects ICE Portal for E-Marketing & Distribution / February 2006
Top 5 New Years Resolutions For Marketing My Hotel; Leading travel content-management and -distribution companies Leonardo and  ICE Portal advise on  making the Internet your best marketing tool in 2006 / January 2006
Cultuzz Chooses ICE Portal to Deliver Media Content for eBay Auctions / December 2005
New Strategic Alliance for ICE Portal / Prelude to Global E-marketing Network / November 2005
Starwood Selects ICE Portal To Deliver Internet Content / November 2005
Major Travel Industry Alliance …New Leonardo/ICE Portal Partnership Manages Rich Media Content for Over 25,000 Hotels with Distribution to 20,000+ Travel Channels! / October 2005


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