Always get permission before using images or pictures taken by someone else. Pictures taken by someone else are copyright protected and subject to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Long story short, I contacted the local operations manager for one of the hotels, asking if I could use the photographs from the parent company’s website. He said it would be ok, and I should send him an email to confirm. I noticed the domain name in his email address was the franchise company that owns this hotel and two others in the city, so I decided to call them and ask for a blanket permission. I talked to a web manager, who without giving it a second thought, said I could absolutely not use the photographs from the chain’s website as it is against company policy.
I explained my initial plans for the site and that they would bear no costs, and he said he would take it higher up the chain, but for now, I can’t use the photographs. I could have very easily used the pictures and pleaded ignorance, but with an expensive geographic domain name like the one I own, I opted to ask first. Experience tells me that it’s a smart move, as the manager at a hotel in Lowell told me the exact same thing when I began developing Lowell.com. I am still awaiting approval on those images.