Imagine you are far away from home, in a country you have never visited before, surrounded by strangers–and yet, you feel welcome, knowing you have a comfortable and secure place to return to. That is the original idea of hospitality, and it has remained unchanged for centuries. With the inception of new technologies and innovative concepts, hotels have become a more convenient and easy experience and are now more customizable than ever.
The ability to adjust the hotel room environment in accordance with each traveler’s personal preferences has enhanced a guest’s staying experience and makes them more likely to return. Moreover, new check-in and check-out innovations have quickly replaced more traditional ways. Technology has easily automated tasks that before were performed by humans.
In this article, we will take you on a brief journey of how hotels and the hospitality industry came into existence – from the start of modern civilization to the present, we will explore how it has changed following certain events in history.
A few hundred years back, when modern civilizations began to emerge, no hotels existed and travelers had to live at the mercy of local people. Slowly over time, inns and taverns appeared in some of Europe’s major trade centers. These rooms weren’t the most comfortable back then but they provided a much-needed shelter to weary travelers.
The main idea of hosting guests on a mainstream level actually did not exist until the late 18th century, when public transportation began to improve, and a larger number of people were able to travel across greater distances.
The hospitality industry benefited immensely from the industrial revolution (approx. 1760 – 1840), which gradually changed the idea of long-distance travels with the construction of roads and railway networks. To accommodate a large influx of travelers, new hotels were built in nearly every major trade center or town.
Over the period of the next two hundred years – with the invention of steam and diesel engines – people started to travel across continents into often uncharted territory. At the same time, Europe was at its height of expansion due to colonialism. Hotels became the main centers of political meetings and business dealings. Luxurious hotels were built to accommodate leading businessmen, bureaucrats, and officials who required the best of comfort and class for their stay.
At the turn of the century, many independent travel agencies began to sprout and offer their services. Although the process of booking a vacation trip was still in its infancy, these agencies provided all necessary details including cost, duration, and accommodation facilities to their clients. On the other hand, many travelers still preferred to use guidebooks to plan their trips, along with relying on word-of-mouth recommendations of people who had already traveled to certain locations.
The latter half of the 20th century, then, saw the rise of the middle class. Hotels began to diversify, catering to different budgets and interests in the form of spas, casinos, motels, and hostels. With this continuous expansion, international hotel chains expanded into Europe, America, the Middle East, and Asia.
With the emergence of the Digital Age, customer expectations have fundamentally changed within the hotel industry. Increasingly varied guest expectations have changed with the ease and convenience provided by technologies like cloud services, social networking, and mobile telephony.
Software companies have worked to create new tools for the hotel industry including customer databases, reservation and housekeeping management systems, as well as dedicated loyalty programs. With the availability of the internet, people have started to take advantage of travel websites that allow them to compare, book, and review different hotels. Technology has made the hotel industry both more multifaceted and easy to access.
The Digital Age has also given rise to a generation of DIY travelers who plan, manage, and book their travel destinations all by themselves. This phenomenon has in many ways disrupted the industry for traditional travel agencies. But at the same time, it has been beneficial for low-cost carriers and online travel agencies (OTAs), who have used the internet as an effective medium to reach out to prospective travelers.
The change on the marketplace due to the digital revolution has also brought about companies like Airbnb and One Fine Stay. The opportunities provided for small businesses in the travel sector has allowed consumers to stumble across exotic locations in remote areas as well.
Going forward, travel companies need to keep up with the pace of innovation to defend or expand their existing position on the market. With emerging new technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), providers now face the challenge of moving their offers into the era of digitalization.