What Is a Hotel?

A hotel is an establishment that offers lodging for travelers. This type of accommodation can be very expensive or very cheap, depending on the amenities and quality of service. The word hotel was derived from the French term hospital, which refers to a medical facility where frequent visitors come and stay. It is the same word used in some place names such as Hotel-Dieu (in Paris). In English, a hotel can be either a full-service or a limited-service hotel. A full-service hotel usually includes a variety of on-site amenities and services, such as a restaurant, fitness center, pool and other leisure activities. Some hotels also offer business-oriented services, such as meeting space and internet access. A limited-service hotel focuses on meeting the needs of single or small groups of business travelers. During the mid-19th century, hotels began to proliferate in America, driven by the development of transportation and railroads. These new forms of transportation facilitated the increasing number of commercial transactions between towns and cities. At the same time, new forms of public accommodation emerged to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors and workers who needed rest, food, and accommodations during their travels. These forms of accommodation resembled the taverns of earlier times, but they were larger, more impressive, and imposing as public institutions. These early buildings were often designed by prominent architects, many of them important members of American architectural history. The buildings' monumental size, elaborate ornamentation, and sophisticated academic styles made them readily distinguishable from earlier taverns and other public accommodations. As a result, these buildings quickly became centers of community life in American cities and towns. The interiors of a hotel were regularly the venue for card parties, social gatherings, and formal events such as cotillions and tea dances. In addition, a hotel often served as the headquarters of political parties and factions. They were important locales for caucuses and nominating meetings, and a large number of public figures made speeches from hotel windows and balconies. The use of hotel spaces for political purposes was a particularly significant factor in the civil rights movement of the mid-19th century. The NAACP and other activists regularly occupied hotel assembly rooms for their meetings and banquets, and civil rights activists and political leaders often used hotels as their official residences. Modern-day hotels differ from earlier forms in that they have hundreds or even thousands of rooms arranged in multiple floors. They often have elevators and staircases to facilitate guests' arrival and departure. Another major difference between hotels and motels is that a hotel typically provides more luxury. These hotels are generally well-designed and have high ceilings. A hotel is also often targeted at a specific demographic, such as the business traveler or family. They are frequently more luxurious than a motel and can have more specialized facilities, such as spas or indoor pools. Inns on the other hand are smaller buildings with more personal service, but are farther from the main roads and may not have as many amenities as a hotel. These types of buildings are primarily found in rural areas and often are less expensive than hotels.