A Brief History of the Hotel Industry

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

Hotel Industry

  • 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 history and 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.

Hotel Industry

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