The hotel industry is a large and rapidly growing sector of the national economy, which employs well over 1.4 million people and collects more than $100 billion in receipts annually. The emergence of the automobile, the three-decade postwar economic boom, and the advent of organized labor facilitated rapid expansion of the hotel industry in the United States.
Despite the fact that there are many different types of hotels, their core purpose remains the same: to provide sleeping accommodation on a paid basis for travellers (tourists, businesspeople, and families) during their stay in a particular location. They also offer a variety of services, including restaurants and bars, swimming pools, healthcare facilities, and retail stores.
Hotels have a long tradition of hospitality, dating back to early civilizations. During the Greco-Roman era, for example, baths for recuperation and relaxation were built in many cities as hotels. In ancient Persia, religious orders at monasteries and abbeys provided lodging for pilgrims on the road.
By the early nineteenth century, elite urban merchants began to replace taverns with hotels. These new structures were massive, imposing buildings that distinguished themselves from earlier public accommodations by their tremendous size and elaborate ornamentation. They cost from eight to thirty times as much as had been spent on even the finest taverns.
These hotels were not only a key element of the urban landscape; they were a vital part of the social fabric, as well. They became centers of sociability and political activity, often hosting conventions, business meetings, and society balls. They were important meeting points for political factions and a major venue for debate, speechmaking, and toasting.
As the twentieth century progressed, an increasing emphasis on scale and uniformity in hotel construction influenced the development of large chains. In the United States, a number of hoteliers began to focus on constructing identical buildings with standardized amenities in the hope that such a uniformity would attract patronage and make travel easier for all.
At the low end of the scale are hotels with small numbers of rooms, most of which do not have en-suite bathrooms or showers. Some of these are owned by individuals who rent them out to visitors on a short-term basis.
High-end hotel properties are those with a large number of rooms and include restaurants and bars. These establishments often have more upscale furnishings and decor than other hotels and are aimed at affluent travelers who can afford to spend a lot of time at the hotel.
Most of these hotels are located in the city center, and many have a direct connection to a shopping area or theatre. These hotels tend to be preferred by business clients, who are willing to pay a little more than the usual rate for a hotel room in order to get a room close to where they will be working during their stay.
The star classification system is used to grade the quality of hotel accommodations, and it is considered a universal standard for lodging by consumers worldwide. The system is based on the quality of services and amenities provided in a given hotel, as well as the price charged for these services.