The Surprising Psychology Behind Successful Hotel Websites: Part One


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 can 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 six 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. 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.

3. They Use Default Settings.

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. 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), it can drastically alter a customer’s decision, explained writer Dan Ariely, in his Wired article entitled, “How Online Companies Get You To Share More and Spend More.”

People like to take the path of least resistance. 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

4. They Make Booking Simple and Predictable.

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.

5. They Use Social Proof to Validate Traveler Decisions. 

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.

6. They Reduce Buyer’s Guilt.

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. 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 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  for their upcoming vacation, they are less likely to go back and cancel, while also becoming impromptu evangelists for your hotel.

Stay tuned for Part Two on our hotel marketing blog next week!

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: