A Brief History of the Hotel Industry (2023)

From ancient to modern times

In the beginning, there was a fire at the hearth, a warm meal and a roof over one‘s head. Thus begins the history of the hotel industry. People have been providing hospitality for weary travellers since our ancestors inhabited the earth about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.

Some years down the line, in the age of antiquity, spas and bathhouses often provided sleeping facilities and were popular attractions for those seeking rest and relaxation.

In medieval times, it was mostly cloisters and abbeys that provided travellers with accommodation. It was also during this period that more and more inns and guesthouses were opened on popular trade routes to provide food and lodging for travelling merchants and their horses.

These were not hotels as we know them today. Hotel chains such as the “Ritz” only came into being hundreds of years later and were a manifestation of the growing prosperity of developing industrial nations.

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The hotel industry, which always strove to meet a changing society’s needs and demands, has meanwhile developed into a highly complex branch of the economy. Today, the hotel industry includes all categories of establishments from inexpensive guesthouses to luxurious 5 star hotels. Hotel management strategies have had to adapt to these developments and it could be said that these strategies have even entered the realm of science. The demand for and the choice of subjects that can be studied such as hotel or hospitality management show the increasing academisation of the hotel industry.

Milestones of the Hotel Industry

From caves to skyscrapers

A Brief History of the Hotel Industry (1)

  • The Lascaux caves that are part of the Unesco World Cultural Heritage are considered to be the first shelter where both an artistic cultural background as well as the accommodation of people of a different tribe can be proven. The exact dating of the caves is disputed, but they are said to be as old as 38,000 to 15,000 BCE.
  • It gets a little more concrete in classical Pompeii; hard evidence of a Lupanar, a bordello dating back to the year 69 BCE was found. This bordello is considered to be the first proven hospitality establishment that also charged for lodging.
  • The first real guesthouses can be traced back to the early eighth century in Japan. The Nishiyama Onsen and Hoshi Ryokan are the first hotels in human history: 47 generations later, the latter establishment is still owned by the original family.
  • It took another millennium for the first establishment to call itself a hotel. The Grand Hotel opened its doors in London on 25th January 1774.
  • Today, just 250 years later, there are countless (according to estimates, over 500,000) hotels and gastronomical establishments around the world.
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, the biggest hotel in the world with 7351 rooms is the First World Hotel in Pahang, Malaysia.
  • The Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong has the distinction of being the highest hotel in the world. The hotel is located on the 102nd to the 118th floor of the International Commerce Center and lies at an altitude of 484 meters.
  • The record holder for the all time most expensive hotel to be sold is the Waldorf Astoria New York in Manhattan. It was sold to the Chinese Anbang Insurance Group for 1,95 billion US dollars in 2014.

Better, further, faster

Travelling in the 20th century

The technological, economical and social developments in the 19th and particularly the 20th century lead to huge changes in the hotel industry. Travelling was no longer just for the privileged upper classes. The invention of trains and automobiles as well as social benefits such as holidays and reduced working hours made it possible for the average person to indulge in travel.

The second half of the 20th century saw a huge economic boom in industrial nations which lead to increased travel amongst the larger populace. It wasn’t just newly acquired wealth that promoted more travel; the population explosion, urbanisation and demographic developments all contributed to an increased desire to travel and the growth of the tourism and hotel industry. As a consequence of this increased demand, many more guesthouses, hostels, motels or international hotel chains that catered to various target groups and in different price categories opened all over the world. Another development in the hospitality industry was the categorisation of different types of hotels; to name just a few, there are now spa and wellness hotels, sports hotels, seminar hotels, resorts, casino hotel and motels. In the US alone, 35,000 motels were built between 1939 and 1960.

The expansion of international air travel gave the hotel and tourism industry a further boost. The cost of flight tickets has been on the decrease since the 1970s and, since the age of the so-called “cheap airlines”, travel all over the world has become more affordable.

In comparison to other industries, the travel industry was quick to take advantage of the rise of the internet and offer easy and inexpensive travel options. It is now possible for customers to book, compare and review hotels, flights and car hires from the comfort of their homes.

From Little Things Big Things Grow

Impacts on the hotel industry

As can be seen, the historyand growth of the travel industry has not been linear; it has grown exponentially. Rapid technological advances have made a huge impact on the industry in more ways than one. It has been and continues to be difficult for hotels to keep up with the pace of development. Established ways of doing things remained the same for centuries, then decades and, finally, years. Today, changes have to be adapted to on a near daily basis. However, the core business of the hotel industry has not changed significantly. Hotel guests in the 21st century may have different wants and needs to guests in the 18th century, but the basic principles of the accommodation and hospitality industry have remained the same.

However, as circumstances surrounding the industry have changed, managing a hotel now requires extensive knowledge of hotel and hospitality management. Knowing about business management, online marketing, review and revenue management and much more is indispensable to running a successful establishment.

Taking the rapidly increasing developments in the field into consideration, it is hardly surprising that small hotels in particular find it difficult to cope with the huge demands of the digital aspects of the hospitality industry.

Opportunities in Modern Hotel Industry

Customer Alliance as partners for your review management

The digitalisation and academisation of the hotel industry does, however, present an opportunity to distinguish yourself from your competitors by utilising these new technologies in addition to applying hotel management knowledge. Read about how Instant Survey improves guest experiences at The Mandala Hotel

Nobody can be an expert in all fields and it is well worth distributing some of the responsibilities of hospitality managed onto other strong capable shoulders. As always, it is of utmost importance to choose the right partners.

The hotel industry has come to a point in time where online reviews are often the decisive factor when booking accommodation. Professional review management is vital if you don’t want to fall behind in the competition with other hotels and online travel agencies.

A Brief History of the Hotel Industry (2)

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Additional Literature


A Brief History of the Hotel Industry? ›

The hospitality industry as an organised industry was formed in the 1950s or 1960s when a proper structure was formed. And, travellers always sought hospitable places to kick back and relax, away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday routine.

What is the history of the hotel industry? ›

The hospitality industry as an organised industry was formed in the 1950s or 1960s when a proper structure was formed. And, travellers always sought hospitable places to kick back and relax, away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday routine.

What is the short history of hotel? ›

The word hotel is derived from the French hôtel (coming from the same origin as hospital), which referred to a French version of a building seeing frequent visitors, and providing care, rather than a place offering accommodation.

Who created the hotel industry? ›

The first real guesthouses can be traced back to the early eighth century in Japan. The Nishiyama Onsen and Hoshi Ryokan are the first hotels in human history: 47 generations later, the latter establishment is still owned by the original family.

How has the hotel industry evolved throughout the years? ›

Over the past 15-20 years, changes in hotel ownership and management, the growth and development of online reservation systems and the proliferation of lodging alternatives have altered the hospitality landscape, bringing new complexity to the industry.

Why is it important to know the history of hospitality industry? ›

The history of tourism and hospitality should be studied in order to understand how it has developed and where it can lead. Early tourism was a vestige of the privileged, and now that it is accessible to the masses, the history of the industry can teach students how to better adapt to changing trends.

What are the five main characteristics of the hospitality industry? ›

While the hospitality industry covers several different services, it can generally be defined through five different sectors. These sectors include food and beverages, lodging, recreation, travel and tourism, and meetings and events.

What is a short description of a hotel? ›

A hotel is a commercial establishment that provides lodging, meals, and other services to guests, travelers, and tourists. Hotels can range from small family-run businesses to large international chains. Most hotels list a variety of services, such as room service, laundry, and concierge.

What is the hotel industry? ›

The hotel industry is solely concerned with providing guest accommodation and related services. By contrast, the hospitality industry is concerned with leisure in a more general sense. As a result, it covers accommodation, restaurants, bars, cafés, nightlife, and many travel and tourism services.

What is the history and origin of hospitality? ›

Etymology. Derives from the Latin hospes, meaning "host", "guest", or "stranger". Hospes is formed from hostis, which means "stranger" or "enemy" (the latter being where terms like "hostile" derive). By metonymy, the Latin word hospital means a guest-chamber, guest's lodging, an inn.

What are two facts about the history of the hospitality industry? ›

In the early 700s the first two hotels in history were registered in Japan which were called Ryokans. These Ryokans were resting spots along the Silk Road. By the 1600s more than 600 inns were registered in England and in the early 1800s the first modern hotel was built in England.

What's the oldest hotel in the world? ›

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan

The oldest hotel in the world, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan opened in 705 AD and has been passed down through the same family for an astounding 52 generations.

How did the hospitality industry begin? ›

In Old times, locals used to let the travelers rest on kitchen floors or other extra spaces during their journey. There were no purpose-built resting facilities for tourists until monasteries decided to build one. This gave birth to lodging services.

What has changed in the hospitality industry? ›

2022 Update

Many industries are experiencing a labor shortage, including hotels and restaurants. Guests are now more open to seeing cleaning out in the open, but there are fewer people available to do so. Some hotels are offering higher wages, free training and other incentives to get people back to work.

What is the industry life cycle of hotels? ›

Typically, hotel operators will say the cycle occurs over a 7- to 10-year basis. The lending market is the ultimate backbone of this cycle – money becomes available to lend, new hotels are constructed, and occupancy levels decline as these new hotels are absorbed into the market.

When did hotels become popular in the US? ›

Hotels have been around a long time, popping up in the US during the 18th century; but it wasn't until the beginning of 1950s that the lodging industry started to explode.

What are the three importance of hospitality industry? ›

People rely on the hospitality industry to fulfill their basic needs of transport, accommodation, food, and entertainment for work and recreational purposes.

What is the main purpose of hospitality industry? ›

The goal of the hospitality industry is to provide customers with an enjoyable experience. Whether that enjoyment comes from eating a good meal, relaxing in a luxurious spa, or getting a good night's rest away from home, making sure each individual guest is taken care of is paramount.

What is the most important things in hospitality industry? ›

Service is the key in the Hospitality Industry

Exceptional service is achieved by anticipating your client's needs.

What is the hospitality industry summary? ›

Hospitality is an industry that includes restaurants, hotels, casinos, amusement parks, events, cruises, entertainment, and other tourism-related services. As such, this industry isn't just important to businesses but also to customers, employees, and economies.

What are the 5 C's of hospitality? ›

The solution to hospitality interface problems however is not avoidance, but understanding the five Cs of hospitality technology interfacing (Confidence, Contracts, Communications, Comparisons and Contingencies).

What are the 4 scopes of hospitality industry? ›

The top four sectors consist of; 'Food and Beverage', 'Accommodation', 'Travel and Tourism' and 'Entertainment and Recreation'. Although the industry is segmented, there is significant overlap to improve customer experience. Below, we'll explore these sectors and how they interact with each other.

Why is it called a hotel? ›

The word hotel is derived from the French hôtel, which refers to a French version of the townhouse. The term hotel was used for the first time by the fifth Duke of Devonshire to name a lodging property in London sometime in AD 1760.

What is the introduction of hotel? ›

A hotel is a place where bonafide traveller can receive food and shelter, provided she/he is in a position to pay for it and is in fit condition to be received. Inns –Public houses in early times in England were called inns.

What makes a hotel luxury? ›

Lavish bathrooms with upscale features such as heated floors and soaking tubs. High-end, lush linens and towels. Deluxe pillows and mattresses so your sleeping hours are as blissful as your waking ones. Beautiful views in every direction – inside and out.

What is hospitality in simple words? ›

What does hospitality mean? Merriam Webster's Dictionary defines hospitality as, “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests or hospitable treatment.” It also refers to the industry in which hotels, caterers, and event planners largely operate.

What is the #1 function of any hotel? ›

Hospitality Function

As such, the actual function of a hotel lies not only in providing a place for people to stay but creating an enjoyable experience for guests and seeing to all their wants and needs.

What is hospitality industry in your own words? ›

What is the Hospitality Industry? The hospitality industry is a large subsection within the service industry and is comprised of four main areas: Food & beverage, travel & tourism, lodging, and recreation.

Who are the famous people influenced the hotel industry? ›

Top 10 Legendary Hoteliers
  • Cesar Ritz. If there was ever a name that was synonymous with the very best of hotels it's Ritz. ...
  • Conrad Hilton. Who hasn't heard of Hilton? ...
  • Bill Marriott Jr. ...
  • Kemmons Wilson. ...
  • Barry Sternlicht. ...
  • Paul Dubrule & Gerard Pellisson. ...
  • Jay Pritzker. ...
  • PRS Biki Oberoi.
Mar 8, 2016

What is the oldest hospitality chain? ›

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan (Yamanashi, Japan)

According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest hotel in the world is Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. This ryokan—a traditional Japanese inn—has been owned by a whopping 52 generations of the same family.

What is the brief history of tourism and hospitality? ›

The word hospitality predates the use of the word tourism, and first appeared in the 14th century. It is derived from the Latin hospes, which encompasses the words guest, host, and foreigner (Latdict, 2014). The word tourist appeared in print much later, in 1772 (Griffiths and Griffiths, 1772).

What are 3 characteristics of the hospitality industry? ›

Personal Qualities for Hospitality
  • Commitment. To be successful in the hospitality industry, you must be committed to ensuring customer satisfaction. ...
  • Communication Skills. ...
  • Enthusiasm. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Organised. ...
  • Knowledgeable of Safety / Hygiene issues. ...
  • Teamwork.
Jun 10, 2018

What were the old rules of hospitality? ›

Hospitality, also called “guest-friendship,” was a social ritual expected of men in the Greek world. Under the rules of hospitality, men would be expected to host visitors, providing them with food, a bath, friendship gifts, the promise of safety for the night, and safe escorted travel to their next destination.

What is something unique about hospitality industry? ›

One of the unique aspects of the hospitality industry is that it exists to create memorable experiences for guests. This involves constantly seeking ways to exceed guest expectations and deliver exceptional customer service.

What is the biggest abandoned hotel in the world? ›

The Ryugyong Hotel (Korean: 류경호텔; sometimes spelled as Ryu-Gyong Hotel), or Yu-Kyung Hotel, is an unfinished 105-story, 330-metre-tall (1,080 ft) pyramid-shaped skyscraper in Pyongyang, North Korea. Its name ("capital of willows") is also one of the historical names for Pyongyang.

Where was the first hotel built in the United States? ›

The Red Lion Inn (Stockbridge, Massachusetts)

The Red Lion Inn opened its doors in 1773 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, as a tavern for travelers to visit on their journey from Albany to Boston.

What is the first rule of hospitality? ›

Extend a welcome: Make eye contact, smile, say hello, introduce yourself, call people by name, and extend a few words of concern. Notice when someone looks confused: Stop and lend a hand. Take time for courtesy and consideration: Kind words and polite gestures make people feel special.

What's the difference between a hotel and a motel? ›

Location: Motels are generally located along major highways. While some are relatively isolated, others are located close to other businesses that cater to travelers, including restaurants, service stations, and convenience stores. Hotels, on the other hand, are usually located in city centers or near airports.

What is the biggest challenge in hospitality? ›

Top 5 biggest challenges facing the hospitality industry in 2023
  • Experience and Personalization. ...
  • Sustainability. ...
  • Increase in Hospitality Tech. ...
  • Changing Consumer Demands and Markets. ...
  • Rising Operational Costs.
Feb 27, 2023

What are at least three 3 major trends in today's hotel industry? ›

Current and emerging hotel trends to be aware of
  • Smart hotel technology. Incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into a property is something that excites guests. ...
  • Sustainable hotels. ...
  • Robot staff. ...
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. ...
  • Unique brand experiences.
May 19, 2023

What is the main challenge of hospitality industry? ›

Challenge. Hiring and retaining staff has always been one of the most common problems in the hospitality industry. Every hotel requires quality staff on all fronts; be it administration, maintenance, kitchen, housekeeping, or frontdesk.

What are the three shifts of hotel? ›

The day in the front office is usually divided into three shifts. The first shift or morning shift typically is from 7 am to 4 pm. The morning shift arrives to relieve the night shift and take over from them for the day's operations. The second shift or afternoon shift usually is from 3 pm to 12 am.

What are the 5 phases of hotel operations? ›

The Guest Experience Journey has 5 different distinct stages: pre-arrival, arrival, stay, departure, and post-stay.

How old is the hotel industry? ›

One of the first hotels in a modern sense was opened in Exeter in 1768. Hotels proliferated throughout Western Europe and North America in the early 19th century, and luxury hotels began to spring up in the later part of the 19th century, paricularly in the United States.

What is the oldest running hotel? ›

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan - Wikipedia.

When did hotels become common? ›

Hotels have been around a long time, popping up in the US during the 18th century; but it wasn't until the beginning of 1950s that the lodging industry started to explode.

What is the oldest hotel in history? ›

According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest hotel in the world is Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. This ryokan—a traditional Japanese inn—has been owned by a whopping 52 generations of the same family.

What is the history behind the term hospitality? ›

Hospitality refers, according to the Cambridge dictionary, to the “the act of being friendly and welcoming to guests and visitors”. It comes from the Latin “hospitalitas – hospitalitatis” which means to receive as a guest.

How has the hospitality industry grown? ›

Over the past two decades, the hospitality industry has experienced significant growth, with international arrivals doubling from 600 million to over 1.4 billion in 2016. In 2018, the travel and tourism industry saw a growth of 3.9%, outpacing that of the global economy (3.2%).

What did people do before hotels? ›

In the Middle Ages, monasteries and abbeys were the first establishments to offer refuge to travellers on a regular basis. Religious orders built inns, hospices and hospitals to cater for those on the move. Inns multiplied, but they did not yet offer meals.

What is the main purpose of a hotel? ›

The primary purpose of hotels is to provide travelers with shelter, food, refreshment, and similar services and goods, offering on a commercial basis things that are customarily furnished within households but unavailable to people on a journey away from home.

When was the first hotel built in America? ›

The Kelley House Hotel, in what is today's Edgartown, Massachusetts, opened more than 200 years ago in 1742. Originally named The Tavern, Kelley House served as a respite for sailors during the Revolutionary War era.

What were old hotels called? ›

The term "inn" historically characterized a rural hotel which provided lodging, food and refreshments, and accommodations for travelers' horses.

What was the first 1 hotel? ›

SH Group and Barry Sternlicht, 1 Hotels Founder and Starwood Capital Chairman / CEO, Introduce 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York.

What is the 10 and 5 rule in hospitality? ›

The 10 and 5 rule is a simple guideline that is widely used in the hospitality industry. The rule dictates that when a staff member is 10 feet from a guest, the staff smiles and makes direct eye contact, and when they are within five feet, the staff verbally greets the guest.

What do you call a person who receives guests in a hotel? ›

receptionist. noun. someone who works in reception at a hotel or office.

What are three from the trends in hospitality industry? ›

Regarding hospitality trends related to marketing, there are several general trends to be aware of. These include the increased focus on local and voice search, increased use of virtual reality tours to sell hospitality products, a greater emphasis on personalization, and the growth of influencer marketing.

How did they start in the hospitality industry? ›

In Old times, locals used to let the travelers rest on kitchen floors or other extra spaces during their journey. There were no purpose-built resting facilities for tourists until monasteries decided to build one. This gave birth to lodging services. In the late 1700s, Inns came into being.

What is currently the largest hotel in the world? ›

Since 2020, the largest hotel in the world is the First World Hotel in Malaysia with 7,351 rooms divided between two buildings. The largest single hotel building is MGM Grand Las Vegas, with 5,124 rooms in one building.


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