Industry Update
Supplier News27 July 2015

The Surprising Psychology Behind Successful Hotel Websites

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Some hotels are more beautiful or more grand than others. Some are placed in more stunning locations. Then, there are the hotels that are simply better at convincing people to book than others.

Don't count it as a fluke or good luck. These successful hotels are reaping in direct reservations because they learned how to tap into the psychology behind buying behaviors and encourage them by implementing psychology and human behavioral insight into their hotel Website design.

You see, sharp hotel marketers know specifically how to pepper their Website with features that drive a customer closer and closer to making a reservation. While these elements may seem (to the untrained eye) as fairly minor, they are fixes that carry a big impact on a hotel Website's conversions.

Here are a few of the ingenious secrets and psychology behind sites that are successfully reeling in bookings:

1. They Get Emotional

According to an amazing article from "Decisions are often made when emotions override rational thought processes… As the Harvard Business Review reported, " strong emotional activation is the key to…success."

For hotel marketers, this means tapping into the emotional benefit your property delivers; will it help guests relax? Or make them more efficient getting to a nearby conference? Will it elevate the guest in the eyes of their partner? Or maybe it will promise lasting memories…

2. They Create Urgency

OTA's and deal sites like Groupon are masters at creating a sense of urgency to drive people to whip out their credit cards. And nothing pushes buyers more than limitations, including the notation of "limited time" to take advantage of a special price or a "limited number" of rooms available. Another technique is to use copy that creates immediacy, including:

  • Only available to the first 20 guests
  • Only 3 rooms remain
  • 24-hour sale
  • While availability lasts

Groupon uses their highly effective countdown clock that immediately tells the consumer that with every second that goes by, they are closer and closer to missing out on that deal.


Jakob Nielsen, a Web usability expert, coined the term "the power of defaults" to explain how people are likely to jump to default settings because they are the easiest choices to make, and keeping things easy is a vital feature of any online buying experience.

Just by "defaulting" one small step for your online visitors, including pre-populating number of rooms, number of nights, number of adults, and number of children, can drastically alter a customer's decision, explained writer Dan Ariely, in his Wired article entitle, "How Online Companies Get You To Share More and Spend More." People like to take the path of least resistance and by automatically defaulting to the most common choices in your hotel booking process, you'll be alleviating several of the fields in advance for customers, making it easier for them to complete the booking.

Read: 10 Things Successful Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors Do Everyday


People want to be in control of the buying process and to be able to foresee how long it will take them. So, the key is to make the booking process easy and more digestible by just requiring a few steps. Also, show them a simple progress bar of the different pages they'll have to complete in order to book the room. This will remove any anxiety over the process while also encouraging them to complete the reservation.


The phenomenon of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real and more rampant than ever. In some way or another, we all have FOMO. Hoteliers can brilliantly tap into that sentiment and compel people to book by using some smart techniques. These include showing how many people have booked a stay within a recent span of time (5 people have booked a room within the last 12 hours) or by sharing how many of a specific rate or room type is still left in inventory (only 3 more Queen Suites available for these dates). This shows that other travelers have selected to stay at your hotel, validating their own decision to do so as well.


As any hotelier knows, a booked room isn't cause for celebration – yet. That's because guests can still – and do – cancel due to a change of plans or worse, buyers remorse. Even after spending time researching their hotel accommodations, reading reviews and finally booking a stay, travelers still crave post-booking confidence, so help affirm them in their purchase decision. Apple notoriously meets shopping guilt head on by offering to email customers their receipts, then doing so one or two days after the purchase was made. By postponing the receipt, the pain of paying has long passed and the emotion guilt has dulled.

So, once a room is booked, congratulate the guest and make them feel confident over their decision to stay with you. You can do this by reminding your booked guests what makes your property and destination worth a visit in their booking confirmation and pre-stay emails. Another smart way to affirm their decision to stay with you is to actually help them share the news on social media. If guests share where they're booking a stay at for their upcoming vacation, they are less likely to go back and cancel, while also becoming impromptu evangelists for your hotel.

7. They Offer Value Upfront

Research has shown that people are more likely to do you a favor if you do something for them first. In marketing, this is called reciprocity, the principle of give and take. If you offer something of value upfront, travelers will have an innate desire and obligation to return the favor.

Major travel brands have already tapped into the reciprocity technique to boost their reach and conversions. promises exclusive 'secret deals and specials' that will never be publicized on their site in exchange for a guest's email address. TripAdvisor does something similar, offering their online visitors free, smart travel tips when they sign up for the email newsletter. Later, they can tap into these email lists to frequently market to them, bringing that one-time visitor closer and closer to making a booking.

Incorporate reciprocity onto your own hotel Website by offering:

  • Local tips for authentically exploring your destination. This shows you care about providing an immersive, local experience, rather than just talking about the same ol' tourist attractions every other hotel is promoting.
  • A complimentary or discounted perk with their first reservation, such as free parking, a free appetizer, spa credit.
  • Exclusive offers only given to those who give you their email address

Whatever you decide, it must be valuable to your guests and relevant to booking a stay. Don't expect your visitors to care if you offer something cheap or trifling.

8. They Are The Experts

By nature, people follow orders and respect authority figures, whether that's an expert recommending a product or a doctor prescribing medicine, or a professor teaching a class. So, how can you use this to sell room nights?

Prove that you are more than just an expensive hotel room. Show visitors that you are ideal base camp for the full, local experience.

This means offering authentic knowledge that shows your hotel is the consummate local and not simply a business out to make money. After all, who do people consider 'experts' when they're traveling? The locals.

Destination management companies, such as the San Diego Tourism Authority, are turning to local notables to curate travel content on their behalf in their campaign Guide to the Good Stuff. For instance, famed surfer Rob Machado shares his favorite places to catch a wave and awesome burritos, while celebrity chef Marcela Valladolid dishes on her favorite places to get delicious Mexican cuisine. Similarly, the famous Garden City Hotel on Long Island publishes "Staff Picks" each month to showcase their local knowledge and point guests n the right direction.

You can do the same with your own staff. Highlight a popular bartender and her picks for best happy hours in town. Or, showcase one of your spa's massage therapists and their favorite local spots to find solace and reflection.

9. They're Likeable

This is Sales 101. People buy from people they like. But many hotels are missing out on this dynamic and hoping to win over travelers solely based on their product, amenities and dining.

Here's how to make online visitors genuinely like you and respond to you:

Speak Their Language

Are your guests made up of families looking to make vacation memories? Then, don't use hip and trendy language. Write your copy as you were a parent yourself. Marketing to millennials? Stop being so bland and boring. Acknowledge who your customers are, how they talk and work to be 'one of them.'

Share Your Story (Or, even better, your employees' stories)

Guests like to have a local tie to the destination. So, if you have an interesting story to share, you better be sharing it. For instance, the Battery Wharf is more than just a stunning, luxury property in Boston's North End. It was an important site on many occasions leading up to and during the Revolutionary War.

Cast Realistically

Too often, hotels and their marketing crews cast undeniably and unrealistically stunning models to appear in their campaigns. Today's travelers are all about authenticity and want to stay at a property that relates to them, that reflects them.

One way to capture that feeling is to use models and actors that your guests can identify with, not the typical over-the-top beauties used in previous campaigns. So, before you shoot new photography or video, take a look around your hotel, make note of the type of guest that is lounging by the pool, laughing over dinner, exploring the town, and cast as close as you can to those types.

10. And finally… Make Them Laugh!

Humor is magnetic. Use it. Enough said.

About Tambourine

Tambourine continues to shake up the hospitality industry with custom integrated marketing solutions for hotels, resorts, and destinations worldwide. The company"s emergence as the market leader for both branded and independent hotels is a testament to their core values: putting customer service center stage, setting the standards for hotel website design, and making performance digital marketing easier and more profitable for its valued partners.

For more information about Tambourine, visit

David Spector
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