The Brief but Fascinating Tour of Hotel History

Roamin’ Times

During the Roman Empire era, the Romans used to build large homes for travelers conducting government business. Our first concept of “hotel” as it exists today stems from that civilization, so it makes sense that the word “hospitality” was derived from the Latin word for “host.” Later on, the Romans created and popularized the thermal bath: Thank the Romans for our modern-day jacuzzis and hot tubs!

What Happens in Europe

In Medieval Europe, monasteries and cathedrals offered respite for weary travelers. Later on, the Industrial Revolution catalyzed a new wave of hospitality, where inns kept cropping up all over the continent to provide for hungry, tired business travelers while feeding the innkeepers’ families. Similar to our market pricing model today, hoteliers started with the most rudimentary offerings but allowed for service upgrades for an increased price. Eventually, hotels stretched beyond the major cities as the mountain and lake resorts attracted wealthy guests. Luxury travel was born.

America’s Earliest Hotels 

In America, the business took off in the late 18th century. Our first publicly held hotel was the City Hotel in NYC, established in 1792. In 1809, we had The Tremont House in Boston. The Tremont checked off a lot of “firsts” in the hotel world — the first hotel with indoor plumbing, first indoor toilets and baths, first locked guest doors, first lobby, and first free amenities.

In the 1900s, a hotel maven named Ellsworth Statler, dubbed “Hotel Man of the Half Century,” expanded hotel amenities to include a full-length mirror and private bath — fine tuning the modern hotel concept that we see today. He created the 300-room Buffalo Statler Hotel in 1908, the first major business travel hub hotel in the US. About hospitality, Statler believed what the best in the travel world still believe today: “A hotel has just one thing to sell. That one thing is service. The hotel that sells poor service is a poor hotel. It is the object of the Hotel Statler to sell its guests the very best service in the world.” Until the mid-1900s, the private hotel, owned by one or two hoteliers, ruled the industry. Later on, the business evolved to control costs while making the hotel more accessible to roving travelers and ambitious businesspeople alike: Enter the hotel chain. In 1939, Quality Courts, now called Choice Hotels International, formed the very first chain with just seven locations.

Later Developments

Largely due to Statler’s influence, the first half of the decade brought further improvements that primed the business for subsequent developments: telephones for each room, full-size closets, free morning newspapers, sewing kits, and maybe even a shelf to hang clothing that needed servicing. Starting around 1960, hotels began their second big industrial boom as most Americans were reaping the benefits of suburbanization and a prosperous economy. People made more money, and they were pouring most of their spare cash into two major industries — shopping and hotel travel.

Eating Well in the Hotel

By the 1970s, Americans had plenty of time to adapt to the rise of faster food service that was introduced in the 50s, and hotels caught on by adding fast food annexes to their facilities. On the luxury side, America’s enduring love of convenience was made manifest in the widespread use of the minibar introduced in the past decade.

Fast forward to the Aughts and beyond, and now we see that the minibar is dwindling in popularity (only 21% even care that it’s in the room), while easy access to food remains a strong selling point. 2015-2016 saw hotels show a slight preference for the bar (and bar fare) over the restaurant because that’s where all types of travelers can share a quick drink and snack between events or meetings. Americans still LOVE our complimentary breakfasts, according to Business Insider; the free breakfast ranks second in hotel guests’ lists of favorite amenities, right behind free WiFi.

Hotels of Today and Tomorrow

Welcome to 2016, where the hotel industry has been forecasted to rake in $550 billion this year alone, and there are nearly 25,000 US hotels just in the top hotel chains. An average room costs around $135 per night, with room costs steadily rising. Want to know the future of hotels? We’ve looked to the industry experts to see what 2017 has in store!

No Comments

Post A Comment