A brief history of hotels
Updated: Jan 28, 2022
From 705AD through to 2022, here's a four-minute summary of hospitality as we know it.
The concept of hospitality can be traced back to biblical times. The Guinness World Record holder of the world’s oldest hotel is the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Spa Hotel in Japan - opening 1316 years ago in 705AD and managed by the same family some 52 generations later.
The Greeks offered accommodation in the thermal baths for rest and recuperation and the Romans built mansions for travelling members of government. By the turn of the 15th Century, more than 600 inns were registered in England.
The Grand Hotel opened in London in 1774 and it would be just over a century later that a hotel group would evolve with the Langham Hospitality Group opening The Langham Hotel London in 1865. In 1859, the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York would introduce the first hotel elevator.
Further New York innovations came in the form of the original $5m Waldorf Astoria hotel that redefined luxury hospitality when it first opened in 1893. It introduced culinary classics including the Waldorf salad, eggs benedict and thousand island dressing and it’s where the official enquiry for the sinking of the RMS Titanic was first hosted.
By then, hotels started popping up along the French and Italian Riviera as a holiday retreat for aristocratic families. In 1872, Berthold Kempinski revolutionised hospitality with the introduction of wine pairing – allowing everybody a little taste of luxury.
Lausanne would open in 1890 as the first hospitality school in Switzerland and by 1912, the AA launched the official hotel star rating – using the quality applied to the star rating of brandy as a familiar yardstick to apply to hotels.
World War 1 slowed progress in the industry and hotels were transformed into hospitals to support war efforts. Later the Leading Hotels of the World launched in 1928, followed by LA celebrity haunt the Chateau Marmont in 1929.
The Waldorf Astoria would be a beacon of light for hospitality during the great depression when it was rebuilt and launched in 1931, introducing room service to the guest experience for the first time.
Another world war halted hotel growth efforts with many once again being used to support the government’s war efforts around the world or taken over by invading troops in Europe.
Despite this, between 1939 and 1960, more than 35,000 motels were erected in the USA in response to rapid industrial growth and urbanisation. Oil and gas company Mobil created yet another 5* system in the US to assist employees travelling all over the country - circa 1958.
TV and mass advertising was a game-changer for the industry in the 1950s and 60’s where the likes of Sheraton, Hilton and the Holiday Inn dominated the ad space. A post-war holiday boom led hotels to enhance the guest experiences on offer with TVs, and other luxuries in not just suites, but rooms too.
The revolutionary concept of the all-inclusive holiday club launched in 1950 when Club Mediterranee opened and then casino hotels started gaining popularity.
By the 1970s, globalisation and business travel led to a new type of hotel guest and the era of the business hotel began – especially in the Middle East. Micros was founded in the 1970s followed by the Fidelio property management system in the 1980s. This is when hospitality experienced a boom with many airport, conference, health and ski holiday hotels opening world-wide.
In the early 1990s, US mega brands started gearing up for mass expansion into Europe and just as technology eased the booking process for hotel guests, it massively reduced the need for business travel.
Until recently, 1991 was considered the dark year for hospitality and it’s when aggressive competition within the industry really began. Hotels responded to the drop in occupancy with the launch of frequent traveller programmes and marketeers started using databases to nurture guest loyalty.
At this time, hotel groups started acquiring and merging with others to enable greater penetration into the Middle East, Asia and Latin America markets - Marriott absorbed the Renaissance and the Ramada and other hotel groups were following similar strategies.
Booking.com began life in 1997 (as ariceline.com) and The Burj Al Arab cemented Dubai's position as a global hospitality player when it opened in 1999 and was dubbed by a journalist as the world's only 7 star hotel.
In 2000 Palazzo Versace opened on Australia's Gold Coast as the world's first fashion-branded hotel. This year TripAdvisor launched too - a game changer for an industry that's so competitive.
In 2001, 9.11 would unravel the industry and transform air travel as it is today. Air B&B launched in 2008 at the time of the global recession. The recession devastated industry growth for years but hospitality would persevere. Armani opens the world's tallest hotel in Dubai's Burj Khalifa in 2010.
The global pandemic in 2020 would have the biggest impact on hospitality to date with a sudden holt on tourism and hospitality globally. Hotels recorded the lowest occupancy levels since hotel bench marketing began in the 1970s.
Whilst the industry is still enduring the ongoing impact of COVID 19, it is also in recovery mode and will rely on local market tourism, advancements in technology, social media marketing and major adjustments in the traditional guest experience (in terms of safety and flexibility) to move forward until global travel returns to a version of its former normality.
TIMELINE: Hotel Group Launches
Langham Hospitality Group - 1865
Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels (The Peninsula Hotels) - 1866
Kempinski - 1897
Indian Hotels Company (Taj Hotels) - 1903
Hilton Worldwide - 1919
Marriott International - 1927
Oberoi Group - 1934
Best Western Hotels - 1946
Dusit International - 1948
Onyx Hospitality - 1955
Melia Hotels - 1956
Hyatt Hotels Corporation - 1957
Four Seasons - 1960
Radisson Hotel Group - 1960
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group - 1963
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts - 1963
Accor - 1967
Jetwings Hotels - 1970
Shangri-La - 1971
Drury Hotels - 1973
Minor Hotels - 1978
Dorchester Collection - 1981
Centara Hotels & Resorts - 1983
Travelodge - 1985
MGM Resorts - 1986
Aman Resorts - 1988
Millennium & Copthorne – 1989
Kerzner - 1993
Banyan Tree Holdings - 1994
Rocco Forte Hotels - 1996
Jumeirah - 1997
Rixos Hotels - 2000
Intercontinental Hotels Group - 2003
OYO - 2003
Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts - 2005
H Hospitality Collection
Rosewood Hotel Group - 2006
The Address Hotels & Resorts - 2008
QE2 Dubai (PCFC) - 2018
Marketing Advisor - London Rock Partners
Marketing Consultant | University Lecturer | Hospitality Specialist
About London Rock Partners
Born in a post-pandemic hospitality landscape, London Rock Partners is a new approach to hotel management. They go beyond the tried and tested to deliver a standard of innovation to which the industry aspires.
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