Hotel Photo Fakeouts: Web Images Show Different Version of Reality

Photo: Hotel Photo Fakeouts: Web Images Show Different Version of reality: How Artful Framing and Photoshop Turn Ho-Hum Hotels Into Luxury Locales
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Before booking your next vacation online, travel experts warn that what you see isn't always what you get.

Hotels around the world are potentially misleading travelers with what are called "photo fakeouts," proudly posting images to their websites of breathtaking views and enticing pools that owe a lot to the marketer's imagination.

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for more on this story tonight on ABC.

On a posh Miami hotel's Web site, a photo of the art deco exterior is missing a real-life feature -- a giant street light in front of the building. The lamp post and light are conspicuously off the marketing image. Representatives of the hotel say, "They are currently in the process of updating the photos on their website" to "reflect the true essence of the hotel."

Marketing photos of a hotel in Poland exude old world charm, but artful framing cuts out the nearby power plant.

In Miami, a hotel proudly touts a well-equipped gym as an amenity on its website, but when travelers arrive, they'll find little more than a treadmill and some weights.

Misleading pictures are the reason Eric Siedman founded Oyster.com, a travel website which posts its own pictures of hotels side by side with manipulated photos posted by hotels.

"The top trick that I see and that we see all the time is cropping," Siedman said. "Then, there's probably the most severe, when they actually go in and Photoshop and remove things they don't want you to see."

Dressing the Set

In other cases, hotels dress facilities with props before snapping the photos, making them seem more inviting.

Take the photo on the left, showing the lush surroundings of a Jacuzzi at a resort in Jamaica. When Oyster visited in June 2009, they found a hot tub that didn't look so warm. The tropical plants were nowhere to be found, and the plush pool furniture looked pared down.

Last year, a spokeswoman for SuperClubs, the then parent company of the resort, told ABC News that the company had dropped the Montego Bay hotel from its collection.

Travel Websites You Can Trust

So what websites can you trust when you book your travel?

As mentioned, Oyster.com allows you to search for hotels and see photos and reviews submitted by actual travelers and secret reviewers.

TripAdvisor.com also features rankings and reviews from actual travelers.

For ABCNews.com advice on the best websites to book air travel, click here.

Click here to return to the "World News" page.

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