Evolution of Hospitality Industry

In the year 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization announced the day of September 27 as “World Tourism Day”. The idea of this celebration is to bring sustainability to the tourism sector all around the world. UN World Tourism Organization defines tourism as “Activities of persons traveling to and staying in different places for not more than a consecutive year for leisure, business or traveling purpose.” The inception of traveling is as old as mankind. Our ancient civilizations traveled great lengths in search of food and shelter. Over the period of time, the purpose of traveling changed. The mere act of traveling has now become a giant industry. The tourism industry is a collage of various services like transportation, food, and beverages, lodging, travel agencies, entertainment etc… Back in old times, land and water were the only means for transportation. And they were often considered risky. But as the innovations gave birth to more convenient and safer ways of transportation, the tourism industry saw humongous growth in the number of travelers all around the globe. The tourism industry that we see today is the product of evolution in the hospitality sector, Innovations in transportations, advancements in communication technology etc.

The idea of hospitality is what lies in the center of the tourism industry. The term Hospitality has been derived from a French word “Hospice” which means “Taking care of the travelers”. 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. Inns were nothing but a shelter by the road where travelers can stop to take rest and get some food. They would also take care of traveler’s horses while they rest. This is the time when the seeds of modern hospitality facility were planted. What we see today is the growth of the past two millennia. Here’s how the lodging facilities evolved with time.

19th Century: Indulgence of luxury into the hospitality industry

In the early 1800s, “Inns” were the only lodging facility available for the tourists. A lot of Inns were established prior 19th century. But, lodging was not just about bedding and resting facility anymore. They started providing food and drinks to the travelers. And soon the element of luxury started to blend in. This gave birth to hotels. Hotels emerged as more sophisticated facilities which provided better rooms and dining areas. The year of 1829 is considered as a landmark in the timeline of the American hospitality industry. It was the year when an American architect Isaiah Rogers designed and constructed the first luxury hotel “Tremont Hotel” in Boston, Massachusetts. It was the first hotel with private attached bathroom and lock on the doors. It used a steam-powered pump to lift up water to the storage tank on the roof. “Tremont Hotel” had set a benchmark for the luxurious hotels in those days. The hotels and Inns then on started giving more importance to services to stand out different than other hotels. They kept improving their services and facilities. At the later stage, hotels started to have bars. And soon the bars became an important selling point for the hotels. The architecture and aesthetics of the hotels were improving alongside. There were more multistory hotels and they had the beautiful exterior to stand out different from other hotels. Soon it was a trend for well-decorated ceilings and beautiful crystal chandeliers.

20th Century: Beginning of Modern Hospitality Era

Hospitality, which was rather a part of the culture, emerged as a huge business opportunity. A lot of people started building hotels and they incorporated more and more facilities. Innovations in transportation systems enabled more and more people to travel. Some people saw the opportunity and jumped into the hotel business. That is why in the early to mid 20th Century, a lot of giant hotel chains started doing their business. The industry had become more competitive than ever. In the year 1919, Conard Hilton opened his first hotel in Texas. Later on, Conard also bought the Ellsworth Statler’s chain of hotels in the year 1954. Marriot (est. 1927), Sheraton (est. 1937) and Hyatt (est. in 1957) also emerged as giant players in the industry.

There is an interesting story behind why Kemmon Wilson started Holiday Inn series of hotels and Inns. Once Kemmon Wilson had gone for a holiday to Washington DC with his family. He had to pay extra for his five children in all the hotels they stayed. Kemmon found the accommodations very expensive and uncomfortable for families. So he decided to start his own hotel. That is how the first Holiday Inn started in the year 1952. Holiday Inn went on to set better hospitality standards. Their main focus was to build family-friendly hotels. With their first hotel built in 1952, Holiday group went on to built its 1000th Holiday Inn in the year 1968. It was indeed a phenomenal growth for any hotel brand in those days.

Cars became extremely popular in the mid 20th century. The intercity traveling became more convenient because of the well-connected network of roads. These factors favored the growth of Motels. The word motel is made up of “Motor and Hotel”. Motels were small 10×10 Ft wooden cabins for the travelers to take rest during the night journeys. These motels were built alongside the main highways to host more and more people who might want to take rest for a few hours or stay overnight during their journey. The concept of the motel was well received and they grew exponentially in numbers in a later stage. The motels were affordable and convenient and that is the reason why the concept of Motels was well received.