Brief History of the Modern Hotel

The hospitality industry is a significant part of American history. Lodging was available to visitors in the form of rooming houses throughout the Civil War era. However, hotels didn’t became a permanent fixture in the business market until the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Technology, innovations, and development play a key role in success of this enterprise. These and other resources continue to revolutionize hotels, including where and how they do business. Today, “travel and tourism is one of the top 3 industries in the US”, (Stutts & Wortman, 2006). Not only do they provide a service to visitors, but they also employ millions of people and generate billions in revenue. By understanding the history of the modern hospitality one can understand the significant influence transportation, innovation, and economy effect business continuity.

Lodges, taverns, and inns have been around since the birth of the United States. However, these were often indistinguishable from family homes. This made it difficult to find. They also had limited standards and accommodations available for travelers. The developments made in transportation dramatically changed this. The industrial revolution and railroads dominated where a business was located. Cities began to flourish near roads, railroad depots, and travel stations. This gave people access to all the things they need in one general area. As a result, many hoteliers provided lodging near these urban epicenters to generate business. This strategy continues to be used today and observed throughout the history of the hospitality. It is seen in the construction of the US interstate highway and air travel. Research indicates that highways stimulated the industry as hotels began to pop-up along these routes. Highways inspired hotel entrepreneurs like Kemmons Wilson and Howard Johnson, (Turkel, 2009). Others jumped on the bandwagon with the popularity of flight transportation, seen in large luxury chains like Hilton Hotels. With hospitality and lodging being centered near agents of transportation, the relationship between hospitality and travel is apparent. As a result, “Americans were the ones to invent an architectural and social form that became the international standard for sheltering travelers”, (Sandaval-Stausz, 2007).

Innovation and technology further revolutionized the hotel industry. This is particularly observed after in the 1950’s. World War II used new technology. This produced an increase in manufacturing that made various products readily available for consumers. Items included air conditioners and televisions. Popular and admired by many, technology helped hoteliers better accommodate the traveler. Examples are seen in hotel chains like the Holiday Inn. They provided the tools and resources travelers enjoyed to increase profits. It allowed, “children to stay free, by providing swimming pools, air conditioning, free cribs, telephones, ice, and free parking”, (Stutts & Wortman, 2006). Not only did technology gain revenue by filling rooms, it also improved business operation. Information technology changed how potential guest book reservations making the process simple and easy for people afar. “Once telephone technology became available, leaders in the motor hotel business… automated the reservation system”, (Stutts & Wortman, 2006). This was a great strategy that revolutionized how hotels use technology to build a brand and maintain a competitive advantage.

Most importantly, the economy significantly influences the hospitality industry. Without a stable or expanding economy, hoteliers would be unable to improve business capital. A booming economy allows organizations, individuals, and families to spend more. This includes vacation or travel to distant places. The hotel industry thrives when people leisure and travel most. When this happens, hoteliers are generating revenue, filling rooms, and compelled to expand in order to meet the needs of supply and demand. This was specifically seen in “the construction boom… labeled the ‘go-go 80’s’”, (Stutts & Wortman, 2006). During this era the economy was strong and in full swing. Chains were growing and building in new locations across regions. However, the climate of the industry changes dramatically when faced with an economic recession. This occurred across the decades. The 1970’s witnessed an oil shortage drastically affecting transportation. It parked planes and automobiles through the country. There was also the economic recession of the early 90’s and again in late 2000’ which slowed business and leisure travel. It becomes clear that economy stands as a “dominant socio-economic influence on development”, (Sanduval-Strausz, 2007).

Jefferson Williamson once said that, “hotels were perhaps the most distinctively American of all our institutions for they were nourished and brought to flower soley in American soil and borrowed practically nothing from abroad”, (Turkel, 2009). Consequently, Americans did many things to revolutionize the industry. They took advantage of opportunities as they came, such as transportation, innovation, and economy. Although this occurred slowly throughout history, it wasn’t until post WWII that all three of these factors came together. At this time the economy was booming from the jobs created from the war effort and increased manufacturing. The country had finally completed a system of freeways and expressways and technology began to change the way we communicate and market. With these resources available, the industry took advantage of this to create a new model of business.



Sandoval-Strausz, A. (2007). Hotel: An american history. Devon, PA: Duke & Co. Retrieved From: An American History. By A. K. Sandoval-Strausz.&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8KX3UtbDPIvSkQewkoHwCQ&ved=0CEQQ6AEwAA

Stutts, A., & Wortman, J. (2006). Hotel and lodging management. New York, NY: John Wiley  & Son Inc.

Turkel, S. (2009). Great american hoteliers: Pioneers of the hotel industry. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. Retrieved from:


About Russia Robinson

I use my writing talents, and skills I’ve learned through academics and experience, to benefit the greater good of society. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I give informative information on a variety of topics and issues that affect society. I also write creative works like children’s books, short stories, poems, and a novel in progress. I earned a BA in English creative writing and American literature from San Francisco State and graduate studies in Technical Writing at Kennesaw State University. Through my career in education and mental health I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher, working in education, social services, and mental health. Interested in my writing services? Feel free to contact me via email.
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