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The Luxurious History of 5-Star Hotels

A 5-star hotel is a luxurious establishment that provides the highest level of services, which include a range of premium amenities and lavish accommodations. Due to the luxury and exclusivity of the services, 5-star hotels are typically expensive, which is why their target market is usually high-end customers.

In the past, such deluxe lodging initially became popular during the Golden Period of the 1800s, when luxury hotels for nobles began to develop. Larger, more luxurious, and modern hotels continued to grow rapidly in the 20th century, and it wasn’t until the 1950s that the concept of the star rating system for hotels was introduced, thus being recognized as a commonly used benchmark to determine the quality of hotels until today.

Our article here will take you through an exploration of the origins of 5-star hotels, starting with the history of luxury hotels and the birth of the star rating system to the iconic 5-star hotels throughout the history of hospitality. Get ready, because we are about to delve into the fascinating world of 5-star hotels!

The History of Luxury Hotels

Similar to their modern-day successors, luxury hotels of the past provided exclusive services for their guests. However, there are differences that distinguish them from modern luxury hotels. The development of luxury hotels dates back to the 1800s, and at that time, much of the architecture and service of luxury hotels were heavily influenced by the nobles’ private residences.

For instance, many luxury hotels in this era tried to give their noble guests the comfort of their own homes by allowing them to bring their personal staff. This resulted in those luxury hotels reducing their services to mostly cooking services, as waiters, wardrobes, and room services were provided by the guests themselves.

wardrobe service in old luxury 5 star hotelA picture of wardrobe service in an 1800s luxury hotel. (via Italia Convention)

Since guests mostly served themselves using their own staff, the service experience was more personalized and unique at some points. Take the food and beverage service as an example. While the hotel was the one to provide dishes, the guests had their own waiters to serve them. These waiters used a bell to call their masters to dine, and the guests would then sit at the same long table. This system was known as à table d’hôte, which means that everyone seated at the same table ate what was offered, just like at home. Back then, this was considered a real luxury.

In the following years, the second industrial revolution (1870) influenced the growth of hotels. Various luxury hotels were established, such as the Raffles Singapore (1887) and the Savoy (1889). Luxury hotels of this era offered a new type of luxury service and no longer adopted the previous, inefficient service systems.

Years progressed, and more luxury hotels were established. Many of them were able to survive difficult circumstances with the help of innovative technology. To this day, these luxury hotels continue to maintain their existence in the hospitality industry.

The Birth of Hotels’ Star Rating System

5 star hotel rating systemA sign of 5-star hotel.

It started in 1958 when Mobil Corporation’s product, Mobil Travel Guide (now Forbes Travel Guide), used anonymous inspectors to assess hotels based on a set of criteria and allocate their ratings with stars. This method was then known as the hotel star rating system, with a rating range of 1-star for the lowest to 5-star for the highest. Each star rating is described below:

  • 1-star: This means the hotel only offers the most basic accommodations, such as a room, a bed, a bathroom, and very little else.
  • 2-star: The hotel provides essential accommodations like a 1-star hotel, but a 2-star hotel may have more complete services and facilities, such as a front office or TV in the guest room.
  • 3-star: The service is more complete, the guest rooms are larger, and they are well furnished. Hotels at this rating level may provide additional facilities like swimming pools or public WiFi, and some hotels tend to be part of famous hotel chains as well.
  • 4-star: A 4-star hotel offers an exceptional guest experience. The large and lavish guest rooms, along with other additional amenities, are at a higher level than 3-star hotels, and customer service becomes a top priority.
  • 5-star: This rating is given to the best hotels only. Services and facilities at a 5-star hotel are at the highest level of quality, and the building usually has an outstanding design.

In some countries, the star rating system is governed by their hotel industry association; Germany is a perfect example. There are others that use a different rating system, such as rating by letters, with “A” being the highest grade and “F” being the lowest.

Although there is no international standard for hotel star ratings, this hotel rating system is still the most common evaluation system used for hotels. The hotel star rating system plays an important role in customers’ decision-making by providing them with insights on facilities, services, prices, and other aspects that help them choose a hotel that fits their criteria.

5-Star Hotel Facilities and Services

As the name implies, a 5-star hotel sets high standards in every aspect of its facilities and services to provide guests with the luxurious experience they expect. These qualities are what set them apart from lower-rated hotels, hence putting them at the top of the star rating system. Generally, the facilities and services in a luxurious 5-star hotel are as follows:


swimming pool in luxury 5 star hotelSwimming pool, one of common facilities in 5-star hotels.

Ever since 5-star hotels were first established, they have always provided a wide variety of lavish facilities for guests to enjoy. Below is a list of several common facilities found in many 5-star hotels.

  • Sauna or spa
  • Ballroom or auditorium
  • Car parking
  • Gym or fitness center
  • World-class restaurant
  • Heater or air conditioning facilities
  • Swimming pool (some 5-star hotels provide private swimming pools)
  • Guest rooms with elegant decoration and premium facilities, such as top-quality beds and private bathrooms with jacuzzi

Each 5-star hotel may have a different version of these facilities, and there might be other specific facilities provided by a 5-star hotel that cannot be found in its competitors. Nonetheless, all 5-star hotels are determined to present guests with the finest facilities!


valet service or car parking in hotelValet, one of regular services in 5-star hotels.

Services in a 5-star hotel must be consistent and exceptional, as the objective is to satisfy guests with positive experiences during their stay. Since long ago, this characteristic of high-quality services has set 5-star hotels apart from those with lesser ratings. Typically, some of the usual services in luxurious 5-star hotels are listed below.

  • 24/7 room service
  • Luxury concierge service
  • Medical service
  • Valet service
  • Laundry service
  • Money exchange service
  • On-call transportation service
  • Phone, fax, email, or other communication services

In order to deliver excellent services for guests, 5-star hotels train their employees to be able to anticipate and meet guests’ needs. These employees work together to support seamless day-to-day operations at 5-star hotels by fulfilling their duties in each other’s hotel departments!

Iconic 5-Star Hotels in Hospitality History

Luxurious 5-star hotels have been around since the 1800s, and they have continued to grow and innovate up until now. Some old 5-star hotels are still in operation, and there are newer 5-star hotels with distinctive features that make these hotels iconic. Scroll down to see our compilation of iconic 5-star hotels that color up the history of the hospitality industry!

Raffles Singapore (1887)

raffles hotel in singaporeRaffles Singapore hotel.

Inaugurated in 1887, Raffles Singapore is among the oldest luxurious hotels that continue to thrive in this era. The hotel has survived many hardships, ranging from World War II to COVID-19. Now, Raffles Singapore is known as one of the most prestigious 5-star hotels in the world.

The Savoy (1889)

entrance of savoy hotel london united kingdomThe entrance of the Savoy hotel. (via The Savoy London

The Savoy was built by Richard D’Oyly Carte, a theatrical impresario who also built the Savoy Theatre (1881). Located in London, the Savoy was the first luxury hotel established in England and continues to serve lavish services as a 5-star hotel to this day.

Four Seasons (1960)

four seasons hotel in doha qatarOne of Four Seasons’ 5-star hotels in Doha. (via Four Seasons)

Four Seasons is a Canadian-based luxury hotel company established in 1960. Ever since then, this company has been consistently providing high-quality services for its guests through its wide variety of 5-star hotels, which are available in many countries.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (1983)

ritz carlton nusa dua baliThe view of a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bali. (via The Ritz-Carlton)

Although there were several hotels that went by The Ritz-Carlton name in the United States, it wasn’t until 1940 that The Ritz-Carlton in Boston was the only one that continued to operate. In 1983, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was formed, and it expanded to 23 luxury hotels in 1992. Since 1998, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has been a part of Marriott International, one of the biggest multinational companies in the hospitality industry.

Burj Al Arab (1999)

burj al arab dubai UAEBurj Al Arab, a famous 5-star hotel in UAE.

This iconic hotel was first inaugurated in 1999 and is renowned as the tallest 5-star hotel in the world. It stands at 321 meters tall and is built on a man-made island off Dubai’s coastline. Its unique design that resembles a billowing Arabian dhow sail makes Burj Al Arab one of the most famous landmarks in the UAE!

Wrapping Up

Just like their predecessors in the past, luxury hotels are dedicated to fulfilling guests’ expectations of grand service and making the most of their experiences. Magnificent designs or a large number of rooms are not enough to earn a 5-star title, as the hotel and its employees must also be able to meet guests’ needs through excellent delivery of exceptional services.

Five-star hotels have always been one of the hospitality industry’s pillars as it has a huge impact on economy by generating revenue and creating employment opportunities. Speaking of the latter, RMC Asia has partnered with 5-star hotels and resorts across Asia since 2014 to provide internship and management training programs for talents who wish to join the professionals of the hospitality industry!

Our programs give participants self-development opportunities and invaluable skills for their future careers through a mix of real work experience and unique cultural exchange! With various internship destinations across Asia, our program would be a perfect choice for students and recent graduates who are looking for challenges in dynamic environments.

Join us now to start your own successful career in 5-star hotels!

Recommended: The 100-Year Timeline of Hotel History

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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