Guest Psychology: 4 Ways to Market Your Hotel Effectively

Humans are, in some ways, predictable. Although we have different beliefs,  are all different ages and come from a huge variety of different cultures, there are some things that we all have in common. Fortunately for the modern hotelier, technology and marketing today lets you capitalize on those basic psychological triggers to show off your hotel to best advantage.

There’s no need to be overwhelmed by the plethora of tactics, tools and endless articles on strategy flooding the industry.

All you need to know are who your guests are, why they book with you, and the triggers that make every person sit up and take notice.

Today, we’re talking about those triggers. If you apply them correctly to your marketing and sales strategy, you’ll be able to grab the attention of those that might have overlooked you in the past. That will lead to more engagement, more conversions and ultimately more bookings.

Here are the 4 psychological triggers we’ll take you through:

  1. Tell guests what they’ll miss out on
  2. Use urgency and scarcity to spark action
  3. Show guests their value to gain their loyalty
  4. Create a connection to get guests on your side

Sounds good? Okay, let’s get started!

1. Tell Guests What They’ll Miss Out On

Loss-framing your offers is a powerful way to show guests what they’re getting – and what they’re missing.

If I asked you to choose between ground beef that’s 75% lean or 25% fat, which one would you choose? If you said ‘75% lean,’ you’re not alone. A study on consumer choices revealed that most people will pick ‘75% lean’, despite it being materially the same as ‘25% fat’.

Similarly, in 1995, a behavioral study showed two groups of women videos about breast cancer and mammography. The video aimed to persuade them to get themselves screened: the first was positively framed, highlighting the benefits of having a mammogram. The second video was negatively framed, stressing the risks of not having one.

The results?

The loss-framed video increased mammogram bookings by 10%.

The trigger responsible here is known as loss aversion. It suggests that people fear losing out on something more than they desire to gain something.

duck sale loss framedWhich duck would you rather buy? (Image source Net Affinity)

The real question is: What does this have to do with my hotel, and how can I use loss aversion to drive more bookings?

Easy! Just tell your guests what they’re missing out on. You can use this for offers, competitions, and even occasionally in the regular copy on your website.

A simple way to do this is to put text near your call to action that tells guests about the great deals and exclusive offers they’ll miss out on if they don’t sign up for your newsletter or book now.

This might sound like a small thing, but for one online retailer, it boosted subscriber count by 473%.

This trigger can also be used to power up your packages and offers. For example, if you include special activities or other add-ons with your packages, let your guests know how much money they’re losing by not taking your offer.

To make the most out of this trigger, best practices suggest that you apply it to tangible benefits that your guests are afraid of losing. This might be money, time, or activities or rewards.

2. Use Urgency and Scarcity to Spark Action

How many times have you rushed to buy the last pair of shoes in your size or been tempted by a sale into buying something you didn’t mean to? This is because marketers know how springboard desire for their products or services by using scarcity and urgency – and because those things are powerful psychological triggers.

So what exactly are scarcity and urgency, and how can they help you?

Urgency is when a buyer feels the need to act quickly because of how important something seems to be.

Scarcity is when a buyer feels the need to snatch something up because supplies are short, but demand is high – think about the Christmas rush, or Black Friday.

Online Travel Agency Expedia does an exemplary job of using scarcity and urgency:

expedia urgency and scarcity psychological triggers

(When using Expedia’s hotel search for hotels in Downtown Mexico)

Expedia knows a thing or two about leveraging guest psychology. Not only do they use a ton of social proof, they cleverly deploy urgency and scarcity to lift demand and sway people to action.

The first search result above uses urgency. It has a room availability countdown and tells searchers to “Hurry!” This prompts people to act quickly to secure the fleeting deal.

The second search result uses scarcity. Searchers will find that only 5 rooms are left. This inspires people to act quickly and boosts demand, because nobody wants to let a good deal slip through their hands.

You can implement these triggers by showing when room availability is limited, or when special package or discounts are going to end.

3. Show Guests Their Value to Gain Loyalty

We all crave the feeling of being valued, whether that’s as a friend, a professional, or a member of a community.

A proven way to make your guests feel valued is to reward them for their custom, and make them feel part of your hotel’s community.

When marketing news company Drum interviewed Matt Walls,’s chief of marketing, they found that using a reward-based strategy and making customers feel important was essential to gaining their 10 million loyalty program members.

“It allows us to stand out from our competitors and provides an incentive for our customers to return to time and again. We want to show our customers that they are valued, so we reward them for their loyalty. It is no secret that maintaining a good relationship with your existing customers is key to long-term success.” –Matt Walls

One hotel chain even used a reward-based strategy to boost enrollments by 78%.

Want more info about boosting bookings with rewards? Check out our post on targeted special offers.

4. Create a Connection to Get Guests on Your Side

MAC vs PC psychological triggers

(Image source)

A controversial study by psychologist Henri Tajfel studied the behaviour of people when engaged in acts of mass hatred. His findings were interesting, and a little disturbing:

The study found that people would show loyalty to their group and completely discriminate against outsiders, even with the smallest of distinctions.

In the tests, subjects were asked to decide between two people or objects that they had no previous connection to. When it came to dishing out rewards to their person or object of choice, subjects showed a notable bias towards their “in-group” and avoided sharing rewards with “outsiders”.

While that’s disturbing, the surprise is how this “us vs. them” trigger is used by big name brands – although fortunately it’s less aggressive!

Apple used this with their MAC vs. PC beef to solidify their uniqueness. Miller Lite used it when they mocked non-manly beers. And used it to unite people against jobs they hate.

You can also use this common enemy trigger to make your guests side with you. How? By uniting against something they have a strong dislike for.

To effectively use this trigger, start by digging into what pain points or problems irritate your guests. Then show how you’re against those problems too:

  • Do you provide customer service that exceeds expectations?
  • Have beautifully designed rooms?
  • Do you have exciting surroundings and activities?

Then tell guests all about how you’re against:

  • Zombie-like customer service
  • Snore-inducing design
  • Lacklustre holidays

Here’s a live example of this trigger in action from the Hoxton Hotel:

hoxton psychological trigger

(Image source)

They describe themselves as the “anti-hotel”. They tell guests how they’re against “high rate phone calls”, “expensive minibars”, and “paid-for internet.

Becoming the “anti-hotel” and making traditional, ‘overpriced’ hotels the enemy creates a deeper connection with guests and helps win them over. Suddenly, you’re not just a hotel – you’re someone helping them take the power back from those ‘overpriced’ hotels.


While the world of digital marketing and technology are constantly growing and changing, what makes us tick is not. By understanding and using the psychological triggers we all share, you’ll know what works with your guests, why it works, and most importantly, how to use it to land more bookings.

Need help implementing these triggers on your website or your special offers? Get in touch with us.

You May Also Like