The Role of Photograph Aesthetics on Online Review Sites: Effects of Management- versus Traveler-generated Photos on Tourists’ Decision Making

Ben Marder, Antonia Erz, Robert Angell, Kirk Plangger

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Tourists searching for information about destinations on online review sites are concurrently exposed to two different photograph aesthetics, professional (produced by destination managers) and amateur (generated by travelers). While the former is glossy and sharp, the latter is often grainy and overexposed. Although aesthetics are important factors in tourist decision making, the effects of the exposure to both types of photograph aesthetics remain largely unexamined. This research investigates how both types of aesthetics, either singularly or in combination, affect a destination’s visual appeal and tourists’ booking intentions through four controlled experiments (N = 1,282). Our results show that despite the “messy” beauty in amateur aesthetics, photos with professional aesthetics make a depicted destination appear more visually appealing, ultimately driving booking intentions. However, the negative effects of amateur aesthetics are mitigated when (1) viewed by risk-averse tourists, (2) presented alongside positive reviews, and (3) accompanied by a greater number of professional photos.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Travel Research
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online December 30, 2019


  • Aesthetics
  • Online photography
  • Social media
  • User-generated content
  • Review sites

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