Timeline of Hotel History

The 100-Year Timeline of Hotel History

As far as human civilization goes, people have always sought shelter when they traveled away from home. This basic human necessity is what became the foundation of the hospitality industry and shaped modern hotels as we know them today.

If we were to trace back the history of hotels from the beginning, the early concept has been around since the Ancient Greece era (13th–18th century BC), which came in the form of inns established for travelers. In the Roman era, more inns and mansions were built to accommodate Romans on government business, and coaches for traveling became common to bring in more guests during the Middle Ages.

As we fast forward to the French Revolution (1789), the brigade systems that organized the hotel’s kitchen were introduced by a French chef named Escoffier. Later in the Golden Period of the 1800s, modern hotels started to be established and continued to grow into the next era.

Although early evolution of hotels have a fascinating history to explore, we decided to take you on a nostalgic tour through the recent history of hotels since the 1900s! We will have a quick glimpse at what hotels were actually like in each of those decades up until now: their developments, transitions, and other worldwide phenomena that impacted the industry.


statler hotel in buffaloThe current Statler Hotel.

The second industrial revolution (1870) continued to influence the development of hotels in this decade. Many hotels were established and transitioned to more luxurious, larger-scale hotels, and the chain hotel concept was also introduced for the first time by an American businessman, Ellsworth M. Statler.

Statler opened his first hotel in 1901, which was a temporary building with 2,100 rooms. Soon, he expanded his business to more than 10 hotels in several different locations, making him the first successful chain hotel entrepreneur.

By the end of this decade, electricity had become a common technology in hotels, which further improved the convenience of guests!


world war 1 soldiersA picture of World War I soldiers.

Luxurious hotels continued to develop rapidly during this decade. In Cannes, France, the Carlton Hotel (now the InterContinental Carlton Cannes) was built upon the collaboration between genius hotelier Henri Ruhl and architect Charles Dalmas. This luxury hotel opened for business in early 1911 and was quick to gain success.

However, World War I (1914–1918) impacted the growth of the hospitality industry, especially in warring countries. Revenues were declining due to bookings cancellations and pullouts of visitors, and many hotels had to convert some of their spaces into hospitals for war casualties, including the Carlton Hotel itself.

Hence, this decade became a challenging period for hotels to adapt to such difficult situations.


hotel in america, circa 1920sHotels in 1920s United States.

During this era, the United States alcohol prohibition laws of 1920–1933 impacted the country’s hospitality industry as well. Without revenue from beer and liquor sales, many hotels were forced to close or convert to other uses.

On the other hand, other hotels that had been established before this period tried to maintain their existence in the hospitality industry. As the 1921–1930 period was commonly known as the “Roaring Twenties” in the United States and was characterized by social liberation and cultural innovation, hotels then focused their businesses on entertainment and leisure. An example was the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which offered lavish amenities and services such as fine dining, ballrooms, and various top-notch entertainment.

Marriott International, one of the world’s most famous and largest hotel chains, was also established in this era. The company began as a root beer stand in 1927 and continued to grow until it opened its first hotel in 1957, which was the Twin Bridges Motor Hotel in Virginia.


an unemployed man sells apple during the great depression in americaAn unemployed man selling apples during The Great Depression.

Plenty of tumultuous events took place throughout this period. The Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in industrial history, began in 1929 and lasted until the end of this era. It impacted various sectors, including the hospitality industry, leading to construction halts and falling room rates in many hotels.

As the Great Depression ended, World War II broke out at the end of this period (1939), which marked another new challenge for hotels to overcome. At that time, women became hotel “bell girls” since men went to war, and schools became training grounds to study hospitality services.

Around this period, technology like air conditioning was also introduced to hotels.


illustration of world war 2 1939-1945A painting portrayed World War II.

From 1939–1945, hotels fell from 25% to 20% of total establishments due to the impacts of World War II. During the war, many hotels and resorts were used by militaries as shelters and hospitals.

A few examples are the Hydro Majestic hotel in Australia, which became a field hospital for American soldiers in the South Pacific, and the Vinoy Renaissance in Florida, which was occupied by the military as a shelter. Both of these hotels were lent for military purposes around the year 1942.

The use of air travel as transportation was also increasing, resulting in an increase in travelers. Many hotels were then expanded to accommodate them.

After the war ended in 1945, the hospitality industry regained its strength and hotels added more innovations to their services, such as the Hoteltype machine established by the Westin in 1947.


airplane in 1950sAir travel in the 1950s.

Economic and travel activities during this period continued to grow. Along with the 1960s, this era was also considered the “Golden Age” of air travel. The increasing number of cars, which started in 1951, has also been a major factor in the rise of tourists’ visits to leisure facilities.

This resulted in hotel expansion and the creation of more hotels in popular tourism destinations, as several notable hotels and resorts, such as the iconic Sands Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas (1952) and the Hilton Hawaiian Village (1955), were built during this era.

Hotels also improved their amenities and services to efficiently accommodate guests’ needs. Modern hotels in this period offered full bathrooms, heating systems, quality furniture, and air conditioning. Hotel departments, such as F&B, were also improved in terms of services.


holiday innOne of Holiday Inn’s hotels, created by Kemmons Wilson.

Due to the popularity of air travel in this era, traveling activities increased, and hotels experienced significant growth in customers.

In the United States, the hotel chain by Kemmons Wilson and Atlanta-based Holiday Inn skyrocketed. By 1968, Kemmons Wilson had constructed more than 80 new Holiday Inns across the nation, totaling 40,000 rooms. This makes the 1960s a turning point for the hospitality industry in the United States.

Overall, this decade was a transformative era for hotels, marked by growth and plenty of innovations.


1973 oil crisis impactAn illustration of the 1973 oil crisis that impacted economic and hotels growth.

The 1973 oil crisis that happened in this era resulted in stagnant economic growth in many countries, which affected the hospitality and tourism industries as well.

As the oil price skyrocketed, reductions in travel occurred, especially in airline travel due to inflated ticket prices. This led to a decrease in revenue for hotels as guests refused to travel.

However, some hotels continue to grow; an example is the Eaton Chelsea hotel in Toronto, which expanded to 500 and 1,000-room properties. Four Seasons, a renowned luxury hotel and resort company, also entered the United States market in this decade (1976).


great barrier reef australiaThe Great Barrier Reef, initially the location of John Brewer Floating Hotel.

Luxury hotels continue to thrive in this decade. An innovation in luxury hotels was made when the world’s first luxury floating hotel, named the John Brewer Floating Hotel, opened in 1988. The hotel was a 5-story building with almost 200 rooms and was built in Singapore to be placed on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Unfortunately, a cyclone hit this hotel and made it a commercial flop within a year of its release. Later, financial issues led to the sale of this hotel to North Korea.

Hotels also started to get more advanced in terms of technology as the internet was introduced in the same era. Some hotels began to use credit cards for reservations and checkout, with the Westin as the pioneer.

The end of this era was also marked by significant geopolitical events, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German reunification in 1990.


burj al arab or burj khalifa in dubaiBurj Al Arab, located in Dubai.

Plenty of iconic hotels were built in this period, such as Dubai’s Burj Al Arab (1994). The hotel has broken a number of impressive records, including being the tallest all-suite hotel in the world at 321 meters, which is 14 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower.

In the same year, Hyatt Hotels and Promus Hotel Corporation became the first among other hotels to launch their own websites, and these technological advancements further improved the growth of hotels, making their day-to-day operations seamless.

Despite the luxurious hotel growth and technological advancements, hotels also faced challenges during this period, especially those in East and Southeast Asia, due to the impact of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.


Up until now, hotels have encountered various obstacles in their development. In the year 2001, the 9/11 attacks happened in the United States, which resulted in a drop in occupancy rates at American hotels. Years later, hotels had to cut their operational costs due to the 2008 global recession that impacted many sectors as well.

covid-19 pandemic illustrationAn illustration of COVID-19, the most recent disease that affected the world.

The most recent challenge faced by hotels is the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020. At that time, measures were taken to decrease the spread rate of the virus, such as lockdowns, social distancing, and travel restrictions, which were implemented in many countries. However, these actions resulted in the temporary closure of hotels around the world.

Fortunately, the pandemic phase of COVID-19 has been decreasing in most locations now. Travel restrictions in some countries have been lifted, and hotels are reopening for business.

The good news is that luxury hotels and technological advancements continue to grow throughout this period. Luxury hotels like the Marina Bay Sands (Singapore) and The Shard (London) were built during this period, and these hotels later became luxury symbols that attract high-end travelers. Technology, such as online travel agencies, was also launched in this era and has been used by many hotels to support their businesses.

Despite the obstacles, this era has become a transformative period for hotels to keep growing, innovating, and adapting to the dynamic hospitality industry.

Predictions of Hotel Trends in 2023

trends predictions 2023 for hotel and hospitality industryAn illustration for future trends in hotels.

Amidst the dynamic world of the hospitality industry, innovations and trends continue to shift in order to meet customers’ demands. This year, Preno has predicted trends of hotels in 2023 that will set to revolutionize travel and travelers:

  • AI and automation
  • Wellness tourism
  • Innovative amenities
  • Digital payment
  • Co-working spaces
  • Pop-up hotels
  • Loyalty programs for customers
  • Sustainability

The trends are constantly evolving, which means adapting to them is a must for every hotel to continue providing their customers with the best services!

Wrapping Up

Now that we have arrived at the end of our trip, we can safely say that the hotel industry has gone through a lot of changes and made a tremendous progress over the past century despite all the challenges. In addition, the future of the industry looks more promising than ever with all the new innovations and technologies being adopted by hotels.

Meanwhile, we can’t also deny the fact that there will always be challenges that need to be addressed by experts. Thus, hotels will always need more skilled professionals to help them overcome the existing challenges and prepare for  future ones, which creates more opportunities for valuable talents in this industry.

Speaking of talents, RMC Asia has been a part of the hospitality industry since 2014 and become the bridge between the most recognized hotel brands across Asia and future hoteliers. Our goal is to take away all the noise and the friction by connecting the hotels and resorts with young professionals through our internship and management training programs! Join our successful participants and embark on your hospitality career with us now.

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Alya Miranti Azzahra

Alya Miranti Azzahra

Alya is currently on a mission with RMC Asia as a Content Marketing. Her mission includes writing captivating content for blog, LinkedIn, and social media audiences. She's also a freelance translator & proofreader and is continuing her study in Communication.
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