A brief history of Hotel Industry

old pub england

As civilization grew, the needs of people also started growing. People traveled all over the world on foot – for work, on business, on pilgrimage etc. The concept of hotel or a place to stay was in existence since early civilization. Hospitality to travelers or guests were a thing since biblical times. Greeks had developed thermal baths in most villages which provided a place for rest and rejuvenation. Similarly mansions were built by the Romans specifically for travelers who were on government business.

When silk route was established, caravanserais were established on roadsides which facilitated travelers with a place to rest during their commercial journey. This supported commercial travel across Asia, North Africa, Southeast Europe and China. In South Asia and India, the concept of Thinnai was very popular. Thinnai is an elevated place in front of the main door of the house. While the owners of the house and their family stayed inside the house, travelers rested in thinnai. The owners used to serve excess food / drinks to travelers who stay in thinnai.

Religious establishments across the globe were providing refuge to traveler and also to the homeless. Some of them even catered nutritious food and nourishment. Travelers also used monasteries, temples, abbeys and built inns for stay during their journey. In France, as early as 15th century, the law mandated inn’s to keep a registry of travelers who stay there. At the same time, more than 600 inns were registered in England. Some of them had amazing architecture with provisions for private rooms, entertainment area, kitchens, storehouses and toilets.

Inns of medieval Europe was the precursor to the concept of modern day hotel. Coaching inns helped with lodging for travelers for nearly 2 centuries. Inn’s began to offer paid services to travelers during mid 18th century. This services model picked up like wildfire and by early 19th century, hotel business sprung up and flourished throughout North America and Western Europe. In Asia, the traditional Thinnais evolved to become stay lodges and stay houses during the 18th century. Staging posts became popular in China and Mongolia. In addition to a place for rest, it offered a variety of food, drinks and various other entertainments. Industrial revolution during the early 20th century and surge in variety of public transport enabled hospitality as a sector to grow leaps and bounds across the world. Travel, tourism and hospitality sector flourished and lot of hotel chains started growing in America, Europe and North East Asia.

To give more comfort and peace of mind to the guests, hotels were set up in various mountains. These hotels provided spectacular views of the terrain around. Though the Great Depression of 1929 slowed down travel and hospitality sector, it started to flourish after a short period post world war. The second boom in hotel industry came post fifties during the Cold War. Several tourist hotels, beach resorts etc., started to pop up in and around the Mediterranean region. The surge in airline business during the 70’s, raise of the oil economy during the 80’s and liberalization during the 90’s only helped the travel and hospitality sector to grow and prosper. In fact the whole of the middle-eastern region including the Emirati belt saw a multi-fold development of hotels.

Though there have been some setbacks during the gulf war during the 90s, dot com boom in 2000 and 2008 recession, the hotel industry has been finding innovative ways to attract guests from around the world. Advancements in technology during the 21st century brought new possibilities, opportunities and benefits to both guests as well as hotel chains. Hotels these days employ sophisticated and smart technologies to offer better services to their guests. It has been a great journey for the hotel industry as a whole till date.

With the advent of mobile technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, we can surely say that the services are going to be only superior.

Krishnan Sethuraman

Founder & CEO at Geedesk SaaS Entrepreneur, Passionate about building businesses that impact the world in small ways.