The Evolution of Hotels and Travel Business
From gradual evolution to revolution?
Travel, as a concept, is as old as mankind. Since the Neolithic Age, some 2.5 million years ago, our species has travelled in search of shelter and food – for betterment, safety and comfort. It’s a basic human need.
But what about hotels; when did they make their first appearance?
Well, our earliest ancestors were obviously far more concerned with basic survival (i.e. finding sustenance and not being eaten by wild animals) than fashioning their caves as lodgings for travellers, but fast forward to the Egyptian empire during the reign of Sumerian King Shulgi of Ur (circa 2094 – 2047 B.C.), and there is evidence that, alongside dwellings, there were places of rest for travellers – making them amongst the earliest lodgings on record.
The Chinese rulers during the Shang Dynasty from 1800 B.C. were very active and innovative in creating resting places for their armies and people on the move. And Ancient Greece can be credited with conceiving the concept of hospitality beyond just rooms and food with the introduction of thermal baths for rest and recuperation. (At that time, homeowners in Greece were also encouraged to accommodate travellers.)
Travel became a legitimate way to make money during the Roman Empire, 753 B.C. – 455 A.C., during its apex of glory. The Romans actually introduced the first lodging classification – the exclusive “hospitium” – which featured facilities and services from elegant lodgings right down to the very basic ‘stabula,’ which is the equivalent of a horse/truck stop.
Besides Rome, some of the best and most opulent hospitium were found in Carthage (now Tunis), Jerash and in Pompeii, including guesthouses that also doubled as brothels, like the famous grand Lupanar. The classifications of lodgings introduced by the Romans was also practiced by the Byzantine Empire, from 476 A.C.
From 207 B.C., many shelters and resting places were created along the renowned Silk Road, a network of trade routes which ran some 12,000 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, connecting prosperous cities and countries like Italy, Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia (which, in modern days, roughly corresponds to most of Iraq plus Kuwait), Persia (modern-day Iran), China and the very Far-East.
During the Middle Ages, travellers were warriors, traders, merchants, explorers, and missionaries, amongst others. All needed lodging and food during their journeys. To capitalize on this, people opened their homes and kitchens to these tired travellers, charging a reasonable fee, of course, and thus an industry was born.
Since then, hotels have always been at the heart of major social activities. From weddings to birthday parties to conventions to gala dinners, hotels have hosted them all. Royalty, presidents, and politicians have all used hotels for functions and rest. And let’s not forget the multi-billion dollar deals made in hotels, the novels written in hotels, the wild parties, the gamblers, the drug addicts, the murders, the suicides, the trysts…Every hotel room has its own secrets, and there are happy and sad stories behind every door – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Just imagine what’s occurred in two of the world’s oldest hotels – the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, opened in 705, and the Hoshi Ryokan, opened in 718 – both in Japan, and both still operating today. Amazing.
Europe also has numerous hotels steeped in history, all of which are still welcoming guests. Among them:
– Germany: The Zum Roten Baeren in Freiburg, opened in 1120, and the Sankt Peter in Cologne, opened in 1246.
– UK: The Old Bell in Hurley, opened in 1135, and the Angel & Royal in Grantham, opened in 1203.
– Italy: The Orso Grigio in San Candido, opened in 1300, and the Al Cappello Rosso in Bologna, opened in 1375.
– Switzerland: The Hotel Interlaken in Interlaken, opened in 1323, and the Hotel Krone in Solothurn, opened in 1418.
– Austria: The Gastagwirt in Eugendorg, opened in 1380, and the Hotel Stein in Salzburg, opened in 1390.
From the late 18th century and during the 19th century, basic hotels and inns proliferated throughout Western Europe, Asia and North America (The oldest operating hotels in North America, however, actually date back to the 1600s). Luxury hotels then began springing up all over the world. This development was closely influenced by the introduction of railways, steamships and later by airports.
Over the years, hotels of all sizes and classes/standards have developed worldwide (from 1 to 5 stars and from economy to luxurious). Just some of the different types of hotels to open include:
– Railway hotels close to stations.
– Mountain and seaside resort hotels.
– Grand/traditional city hotels for business and social activities.
– Flashy gambling/casino hotels, starting from the 1930s.
– Roadside motels, which grew particularly fast in the USA from the mid ’30s.
– Convention hotels to accommodate large groups.
– Timeshare hotels and destination clubs. Serviced apartment hotels.
– Bed and breakfast hotels/motels and mansions.
– Airport hotels.
– Boutique hotels (from the mid/late ’80s), floating hotels, lodges.
– Capsule hotels with shared bathrooms in Japan (also from the mid ’80s).
– Floating hotels. Modular hotels.
– And many other products, from small non-branded economy hotels to the 5 star/deluxe all-suite resorts.
Travel guides and hotel ratings
The first known travel guide was published by Marian Starke in Britain in 1820 with the objective of informing travellers about the basic facilities to be expected at hotels and other related sectors. This was followed by the Karl Baedeker Guidebooks from 1832 in Germany, which rated hotels from one to five stars based on facilities, product, quality, services and pricing. This rating was then implemented by most tourist organizations and countries globally.
The star rating is a very simple way to classify hotels and it remains in place in most countries worldwide. (It must be noted that a rating of six or seven stars does not officially exist, but many hotels label themselves as such.)
Other popular guidebooks with their own ratings systems include the Michelin Guide, the Hotel Index Directory, the Mobile Travel Guide, the Forbes Travel Guide, and the AAA-Diamond.
Recently we have seen US-based hospitality benchmarking company STR introduce its classification system ranging from Economy to Luxury hotels. However, the star rating remains the most recognized within the industry, and in many countries stars are awarded by official tourist bureaus.
Innovations and innovators
The industry is constantly looking to elevate standards through innovation, and hotels are always proud when they introduce new facilities and services to market. Here’s a recap of some of the innovations over the years:
1829: First indoor plumbing and door locks by the Tremont Hotel, Boston.
Mid 1800: The introduction of electricity is a turning point for the hotel industry.
1859: First passenger elevator opens in the Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York.
1866: Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels becomes the first hotel group to list in the Hong Kong stock exchange.
1870: The grand Palmer House Hotel in Chicago becomes the first fire-resistant hotel structure.
1890: First school for hoteliers founded in Lausanne Switzerland (EHLITE’s).
1901: First central heating by steam at the Hotel de Paris, France.
1904: The Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, lights up the first electrical outdoor Christmas tree.
1905: Introduction of the modern bed/mattress – the “Savoir Bed” (horsetail, cashmere, lamb wool and cotton) – at the Savoy Hotel London.
1910: Goring Hotel, London, becomes the first to offer en-suite bathrooms.
1922: The world’s first four-year intercollegiate hospitality school by Cornell University opens in Ithaca, New York.
1925: Kempinski and Hilton become the first brands to introduce operating standards and policies to manage multiple properties.
1925: First hotel with wall-to-wall carpet in rooms – the Savoy Hotel London.
1927: First in-room radios – Boston Plaza Hotel, Boston.
1930: Room service is introduced for the first time – Waldorf Hotel, New York.
1945: First hotel chain to list in the USA stock exchange – Sheraton.
1946: First in-house guest credit cards – Western International (Westin) Hotels.
1947: First hotel reservation system “Hoteltype” – Western International (Westin).
1947: First hotel to install television in rooms – Hilton Roosevelt.
1948: First multi-hotel booking system – Hilton.
1950: First hotel to install central air-conditioning – the Adolphus Hotel, Dallas.
1950: First hotel credit card – Diners Club Card.
1957: First direct dial telephone service – Hilton.
1960: First franchise concept – Holiday Inn.
1960: First ice and vending machines on room floors – InterContinental.
1960: First retractable lines in bathrooms – InterContinental.
1963: First known computerized reservation system – Hilton New York.
1965: First centralized reservation system “Holidex” – Holiday Inn.
1967: First toll free +800 – Holiday Inn.
1967: First atrium hotel at the Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, USA.
1970: First wheeled suitcase invented by Bernard Sadow (provoking ire among bellhops who start to get less tips).
1973: The invention of the first mobile phone – and we all know the rest…
1982: First JV in China with an international hotel group, the opening of the Jianguo Hotel in Beijing by the HKSH LTD.
1983: Westin the first to offer reservations and checkout using major credit cards.
1994: Promus and Hyatt hotels, first to establish websites.
Amusement Park Hotels: The popularity of amusement parks goes back to the Middle Ages and, in most cases, hotels/inns were developed as part of the facilities and experiences. During the 20th century, large amusement/theme parks and supporting hotels developed all-over the world, with Disneyland (1955), SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and Dinosaur World among the most prominent names. This is a strong global business with high demand. It is anticipated that, in the not-too-distant future, China will surpass the USA in terms of theme/amusement parks facilities and related attractions. In most cases, hotels are integrated with theme/amusement parks and are one of the reasons for visiting.
Casino Hotels: Gambling has long been part of society. The first well-known casino, Casino’ di Venezia, opened in Venice, Italy, in 1638, and is still in operation today. Large-scale gambling facilities were developed during the 1900s and Las Vegas became the gambling centre of the world. The first hotel casino to open there was the EI Rancho in 1941, followed by the Flamingo, on what would soon become the now famous “Las Vegas Strip.” The first mega-resort in Las Vegas was developed in 1969. Following this success, modern gambling rapidly expanded worldwide and of course was supported by large hotel facilities. At time of writing, Macao has become the world’s largest gambling destination operating non-stop 24/7 (mainly attracting Chinese visitors) with overall revenue surpassing that of Las Vegas. However, it only has a fraction of the entertainment. Hotels of immense size and complexity, with the latest designs and facilities, are very much part of this business. The largest casinos are normally located within a hotel.
Conference/Convention Hotels: Conferences and conventions are an important source of business for practically every city and major destination worldwide. Such is their economic contribution, they receive considerable attention from both local and national authorities. The first conference/convention centre can be traced back to the mid-19th century in Britain (exhibition halls). Since then, conferences/conventions have constantly evolved, from small gatherings to huge movements involving every single sector related to travel. “Rooms feed the convention business and the convention fill the rooms”.
Hotels are an integral – and perhaps the most essential element – for attracting a convention/conference/exhibition/meeting to a destination. This is a specialized business, and hotels which want to attract this type of business must offer full-sized and updated facilities complete with full-service accommodation and, most importantly, qualified people to handle events from the negotiation process right through to departure. The latest technology and meeting facilities are also a must.
The rise of international travel
International travel as we now know it began soon after World War II (prior to that, international travellers were mostly wealthy people). From the late 1940s, the largest percentage of international travellers were Americans, and at that time most hotels around the world quoted their room rates in US Dollars.
American travellers expected to communicate in English wherever they went and wanted familiar experiences. This influenced hotels to have the so-called “Coffee Shops” (all-day-dining) and en-suite bathrooms. Hotels also offered familiar foods like American breakfast, hamburgers, club sandwiches, alongside famously weak mugs of coffee (trying local food wasn’t high on the agenda back in those days).
International travel en masse started during the late 1950s, and at that time some of the receiving hotels struggled to respond to the demands of international customers who expected their own ethnic foods and other basic amenities, such as in-room coffee & tea making facilities, personal slippers, own-language TV channels etc.
The Uniform System of Accounting (USALI)
Introduced in the USA in 1926, USALI became the worldwide bible for accounting and finance for the hotel industry. The latest revised edition (11th) was issued on 1 January 2015. Most hotel groups use this system.
Products and services introduced during the ’60s
The ’60s saw a popularity boom of roadside motels across the USA, as well as Bed and Breakfast (B&B) operations in Europe. The decade also saw the introduction of wheelchair access to rooms; 24-hour room service and laundry service; in-room mini bars; business centers; swimming pools and exercise areas; four and five fixture bathrooms; repeat guest programmes; formalized annual budgets and marketing plans; and room segmentation. Water sprinklers were installed in most hotels (becoming the basic standard), the MICE industry grew, and high-rise hotels and atrium hotels began to open.
Products and services introduced during the ’70s
Colour TVs in all rooms; in-room movies (including HBO and movie channels); non-smoking rooms; in-room smoke detectors (becoming a basic standard); branded bathroom amenities; concierge club floors and lounges.
The decade also saw the rise and decline of nouvelle cuisine, as well as the introduction of reservation and check-out by credit cards; aggressive promotion of points and reward programmes; family plans (such as children stay free when sharing the same room as their parents); fitness centers with the latest equipment; and down duvets (feathers or duck) – also referred as the continental quilt, which dates back to the 1700s in China, Germany and Scandinavia.
Hotel organizations also shifted their focus (almost obsessively) toward developing brand standards, quality manuals, operating policies and centralized systems. And everyone started copying each other.
Key date: 1976. On July 4 of this year, the US celebrated the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
Products and services introduced during the ’80s
Brand loyalty programmes (first by Holiday Inn and Marriott); Property Management Systems (PMS); Use of Personal Computers; advanced/interactive reservation systems; electronic door systems; centralized travel agent commission; voicemail systems; Service Express Call (one number for all services); organic food; hotel spas; Central Reservation Systems (CRS); and non-smoking rooms and non-smoking floors are all indicative of the ’80s.
China also opened to international hotel operators – with Peninsula Group and Sheraton the first to move in – and, with the decade drawing to a close, an amazing thing called the Internet was prepped to go public.
Key date: 1988. Australia marked 200 years since the arrival of the First Fleet of British convict ships.
Products and services introduced during the ’90s
Fidelio launched the first property management and hotel reservation system (PMS); cellphones ushered in the beginning of the mobile world; the internet became more sophisticated with creative websites and advanced intranets; laptops and PDAs became available; online booking sites and OTAs were formed; external revenue solutions like IDeas, Serenata etc. came into being; video conferencing became an affordable reality; solar power, steam power and wind turbines were available for hotels; there was a rise of gluten free and healthy food; and hotels had a strong focus on the quality of bedding (Heavenly Bed etc.).
Key date: 1997: Hong Kong was returned to China followed by Macau in 1999.
Key date: 2000. The Millennium Bug made for an uncertain New Year’s Eve.
Then comes the new century
From the year 2000 onwards the world has changed rapidly along with each technological advancement. Just some of the products and services that have changed the nature of the hotel industry include iPhones and iPads (‘a full mobile world’); mobile technology including search and bookings; apps for almost every occasion; social media; online reviews (TripAdvisor from 2004); Search Engine Optimization (SEO); meta search and paid search marketing; the P2P sharing economy; Airbnb and other vacation rentals; Cloud computing-based programmes/technology; Big Data connectivity and marketing; and Revenue Generating Index (RGI) and Revenue Management systems.
The first carbon neutral hotel, the Wolgang Valley Resort and Spa, opened in Australia in 2009, while the first robot-staffed hotel, the Henn-na Hotel, Maihama, opened in Tokyo Bay in 2015. Self-service kiosks for check-in/out has become a reality, as have Virtual Concierge; Keyless Entry (using a smartphone to open doors); Smart Rooms; computerized building automation systems; energy efficient lighting and LEDs; and super thin digital TVs (0.15 inches thin) with related entertainment.
Hotels are now implementing paperless operations (check-in and check-out by tablet) and are continuously studying how to create ‘smart hotels of the future’ – including using robots for back of house functions.
The co-working and co-living space has flourished, there has been an increased focus on wellness in hotels (especially healthy food designed to provide a nutritious and balanced diet), and guests are now increasingly driven by affordable luxury.
At the same time, labor costs are rising worldwide, and there is a severe shortage of qualified personnel ready to enter the hospitality industry.
What must hotels do to remain profitable in the future? There is so much technology available, but is everything that’s ‘nice to have’ really always necessary? Hospitality is all about the customer, and a positive customer experience must always come first.
The roaring evolution and transformation of hotel rooms that took place during the 20th century simply surpassed any expectations.
From kerosene and oil lamps of the pre-electricity days to LED lights. From the common/public bathrooms at the end of corridors to the en-suite five-six fixture bathrooms. From the lever-type door latches to magnetic-coded key-cards. From the room-house phone to WiFi. From one station radio to ultra-thin flat screen TVs. From the quick brake light switches to rocker switches. From the Great Gatsby inspired art-deco to the modern, larger and comfortable rooms of present days (with natural materials designed to promote a good rest). From old manual typewriters and carbon paper to the PC. From telegrams to laptops and in-room working space. From cold, hard floors to fancy and durable carpets. From ceiling fans to controlled air-conditioning.
Then of course there’s the electronic in-room safes, the full-stocked mini bar, the coffee-tea making machine, room service, electronic blackout blinds and curtains, tablets, soundproof rooms with double glazing, smoke detectors and automatic water sprinklers, the branded amenities etc.
Many in-room facilities have risen and fallen too, such as fax machines, on-demand pay movies, videocassette recorders, iPods and so on…
(And we must not forget the horse stables within hotel premises: A traditional ‘horse-and-buggy’ was once the way many hotels transported their guests and goods).
Evolution and importance of beds in hotels
In the hotel business, the greatest luxury of all is a good night’s sleep. Every hotel that rents out a room for the night is fundamentally selling sleep. It is estimated that the average person spends about 30 per cent of their life in bed…
Early beds of the ancient world were simply piles of straw or leaves sometimes covered with animal skins. Wooden beds were introduced by the Romans, who would use them to lounge and eat on during the day. For sleeping, they would simply top their beds with a crude mattress stuffed with reeds, hay or wool. This went on for several centuries.
The four-poster iron beds with simple steel springs were introduced during the 18th century, when mattresses were stuffed with cotton or wool. In the 19th century, the Chinese introduced decorated canopy beds which, like the Romans, were also used for lounging during the day.
Here are some key dates in the evolution of beds:
– 1857 Coil spring invented.
– 1929 Latex rubber mattress created.
– 1940 Air beds introduced.
– 1950 King (193x203cm) and queen (153x203cm) beds were gradually introduced by the hotel industry. Other beds also became available – murphy, sofa, bunk, folding, cribs etc.
– 1960 Water beds offer a ‘far out’ sleeping experience.
– 70s to ’90s: Gradual improvements of box spring, mattresses and linen.
– 1991 First memory foam mattress.
– 2000 No-flip mattress.
– Present: Sophisticated coil spring design, reflex mattress, DUX beds, Beautyrest, Posturepedic etc. A wide choice of originals – and of fakes…
And, of course, bed linen has also evolved, from handmade cotton to the finest high thread count material. And today no bed is complete without down-filled pillows of many versions and shapes – they’re everywhere and omnipresent. If only pillows could talk!
In all cases hygienic protectors for pillows and mattresses are a must, especially since DT was banned, as bed bugs turn up in even the finest of hotels.
Successful global hotel brands/companies
– Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels from 1866.
– Kempinski Hotels from 1897.
– Taj Hotels from 1903.
– Hilton Worldwide Hotels from 1919/1925.
– Western International (Westin) Hotels from 1930.
– Carlson Rezidor Group from 1938.
– Sheraton Hotels from 1945.
– InterContinental Hotels from 1946.
– Best Western Hotels from 1946.
– Dusit Thani from 1948.
– Holiday Inn from 1952.
– Marriott Hotels – company from 1927, first hotel from 1957.
– Hyatt Hotels from 1957.
– Four Seasons Hotels from 1960.
– Accor Hotels from 1967.
– Shangri-La from 1971.
Past challenges faced by the industry
Operating in a global interconnected and consumer-led environment, the hotel industry has been (and is) exposed to various disruptions to its business. In most cases, consumer spending is directly correlated with the GDP performance and stability of each respective country/destination, and over the years the industry has faced many serious challenges – especially in the face of global, regional and national wars, acts of terrorism, break out of epidemic disease, etc…
There are horror stories about the “great depression” of 1929-39, first in the USA and then worldwide, which forced many hotels to close down. And the industry has had to weather many other storms – energy crises and oil price drops, real estate bubbles and busts, stock market crashes, the subprime mortgage crises, the collapse of large financial institutions etc.
The hotel and travel industry has also been negatively impacted by political instability, cultural revolutions, military crackdowns, political and social demonstrations, and natural disasters. On top of this, epidemics like SARS, swine flu, Ebola and others have all disrupted business.
And let’s not forget the hotel labor unions which in some cases have created disruption for hotels – especially those which have grown in strength and are politically ambitious.
The first trade union was formed in 1848 in Germany, followed by Britain in 1871, and the USA in 1892. All these counties, alongside many others in the west, have witnessed many strikes and labor movements over the years, all of which have impacted business to some degree.
The longest hotel strike in the world lasted 10 years – from 2003 to 2013 – and it took place at the Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago.
Perhaps the strongest hotel labor unions are located in New York City, with general strikes in 1912, 1918, 1929, 1934 and again in 1984.
Travel and Tourism Organizations
Various organizations emerged for the development of travel and tourism. Among the longest-running are:
– IH&RA (International Hotel & Restaurant Association), founded in 1849 in Lausanne, Switzerland (the oldest association of its kind).
– ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents), founded in 1931 and presently based in Alexandria, Virginia, USA.
– SKAL International (meaning cheers and good health), founded in 1932 and based in Torremolinos, Spain.
– lATA (International Air Transport Association), founded in 1945 and based in Montreal, Canada, and Geneva, Switzerland.
– WADA (World Association of Travel Agents) from 1949 based in Switzerland.
– PATA; (Pacific-Asia Travel Association), founded in 1952 and presently based in Bangkok, Thailand.
– UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), founded in 1974 and presently based in Madrid, Spain.
– WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council), founded in 1991 and presently based in London, UK.
– ATLAS (Association for Tourism, Leisure, Research and Education), founded in 1997 and based in Amsterdam, Holland.
– And the newest one: the WTA (World Tourism Alliance), established in 2017 in Beijing, China.
Most of these organisations are non-profit membership-organizations which aim to facilitate consultation and cooperation between tourism institutions and relevant offices worldwide. Objectives include promoting travel and tourism, providing professional advice, training people, analyzing and publishing tourism data, and communicating with local authorities. The organizations also provide guidance on industry related ethics, sustainability, quality/standards, security/safety, facilities etc.
Local/Domestic Travel and Tourism Associations
Every country, and most large cities, have dedicated local travel and tourism associations. These include the Hotel Association, the Travel Agent Association for inbound and outbound travel, the Airline Association, the Tourism Bureau, the Convention Bureau, Tour-Guides Association, Training Institutions, and others.
Major international Tourism and Travel Tradeshows
ITB, Berlin; World Travel Mart, London; Fitur, Spain; Jata, Japan; China Travel marts in Shanghai and Beijing; IT&CM, and Arabian Travel Mart, Dubai; IMEX, CMT, Incentive Travel Exchange, Las Vegas; Virtuoso Conference, Luxury Travel Mart, New York Times Travel Show, Travel & Tourism Marketing Summit and so on…
Some of the largest international Hotel Investment Conferences
ALIS (the Americas Lodging Investment Conference), Los Angeles. IHIF (Hotel Investment International Forum), Berlin. NYU Hotel Conference, New York; CHAT, (China Hotels & Tourism Conference), Beijing; HITEC, (Hospitality Industry Exposition Conference), USA. HICAP, (Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific), Hong Kong; CHICK (China Hotel Investment Conference), Shanghai; and AHIC, (Arabian Hotel Investment Conference), Dubai.
Consortia & Reservation/Marketing Hotel Groups
Notua Hotels, Preferred Hotels, Worldhotels, Leading Hotels of the World, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Realis & Châteaux, Associated Luxury Hotels International, Romantic Hotels, Healing Hotels of the World, and many others.
Major International Travel & Tourism Publications
Sunset -1898; Travel Agent – 1930; Where – 1938; Merian – 1948; Travel Trade Gazette (TTG) – 1953; Travel Weekly – 1958; Hotels – 1966; Travel & Leisure – 1971; Business Traveler – 1976; National Geographic Traveler – 1984; Departure Magazine – 1984; Condé Nast Traveler – 1987; Elite Traveller – 2001; The Sunday Times Traveler Magazine – 2003; Destinations – 2008; Cruise International – 2008; Lonely Planet Traveller – 2009; Virtuoso Life Magazine & Travel, and many others. (All are good publications on which to spend your advertising budget)
20th Century, the end of colonialism?
With Hong Kong returning to the Mainland in 1997, and then Macau in 1999, has the world seen the end of colonialism that lasted six hundred years starting from the “age of discovery” during the 15th century? And will there be a “new age of discovery?” Perhaps to the Moon, Mars and the Universe?
What have we learned from the past?
That hospitality is a global business and hotels are catering to travellers from all over the world. That people (consumers) want and need to travel either for leisure or for business. That it is a people (employees) business and labor intensive. Employees are the ones who make great hotels.
It is a competitive, fragmented and perishable industry exposed to external factors. Corporate ethics and sustainability have become an essential part of doing business.
We are in an age of discovery and the information/technology revolution is driving many changes. Security, demographics, resource scarcity, new trends/expectations, and third party disrupters are all issues which will influence the way the industry will operate in the future.
Source of information: Senior hotel executives with over 65 years’ of experience; from industry related publications; from the Internet; and from my own knowledge and experience.