History of hospitality industry: origin and evolution of hotels

History of hospitality industry: origin and evolution of hotels. When did the hospitality industry begin? Let’s make a brief introduction to the subject: In previous posts we talked about the primordial forms of hospitality, when we wrote the article entitled Hospitality in Ancient Mesopotamia and Rome and when we continued our shared research in hospitality during the Middle Ages.

History of the hotel or hospitality industry
History of the hotel or hospitality industry


Ancient history

The hospitality sector in ancient history, which encompasses various civilizations and cultures, was configured according to the needs, customs and practices of the time. Here’s an overview:

Ancient Mesopotamia

In Mesopotamia, one of the earliest known civilizations in human history, hospitality was a fundamental social and cultural practice. Hospitality was considered a sacred duty, and the Mesopotamians believed that the gods would bless those who offered hospitality to travelers and strangers. Inns and guesthouses were common in Mesopotamia and met the needs of travelers, merchants, and officials. The inns offered basic accommodation, food, and sometimes stables for the animals.

Ancient Egypt

Hospitality was also highly valued in ancient Egypt. Egyptians were known for their welcoming character and provided hospitality to travelers and outsiders as part of their religious and cultural beliefs. Inns and guesthouses were common along trade routes and riverbanks, and offered lodging, food, and other services to travelers and merchants.

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, hospitality, known as “xenia,” was a fundamental cultural practice. It was considered a moral obligation to offer hospitality to outsiders and travelers, as it was believed that the gods themselves could visit them in disguise. Wealthy households and public buildings often offered rooms to travelers, and in large cities inns were created to cater to the needs of travelers and merchants.

Ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, hospitality, known as “hospitium,” was an important social custom. It was common for households to offer accommodation, food and other services to travelers, friends and acquaintances. Rome had a developed system of inns, known as “cauponae”, which catered to the needs of travelers, merchants and officials. Some inns in Rome were known for their luxury and amenities, and offered a wide range of services to their guests.

Asian civilizations

Hospitality was also an important aspect of ancient Asian civilizations. For example, in ancient China, the practice of “baitong” was to offer hospitality to travelers and guests, and guesthouses were established along trade and pilgrimage routes. In ancient India, the principle “athithi devo bhava” stressed the importance of treating guests as gods and offering them hospitality.

In general, the hospitality industry in ancient history was characterized by the importance of hospitality as a social and cultural practice. Inns, guesthouses, and private homes provided accommodation, food, and other services to travelers, outsiders, and guests, based on the religious, cultural, and social customs of the time. Hospitality played a crucial role in trade facilitation, social interactions and cultural exchanges, and was highly valued in ancient societies for its role in fostering goodwill and mutual respect among different groups of people.

Middle Ages

The hospitality industry in the Middle Ages, also known as the medieval period, was marked by the socioeconomic, cultural and religious influences of the time. Here’s a more detailed analysis:

Religious hospitality

Religious institutions, such as monasteries, abbeys and convents, played a prominent role in hospitality during the Middle Ages. These institutions used to serve as a refuge for travelers, pilgrims and the poor, providing them with food, shelter and medical care. Monks and nuns were known for their acts of charity and hospitality, offering lodging, meals and other forms of help to those in need.

Hospitality and inns

Inns, privately owned establishments, also existed during the Middle Ages. They used to be situated along busy routes, such as roads and pilgrimage paths, and offered lodging, food, and sometimes stables to travelers, merchants, and pilgrims. The inns varied in size and quality, from the simpler roadside to the larger establishments that met the needs of the nobility and other high officials.

Nobility and aristocracy

The nobility and aristocracy of medieval Europe were known for their hospitality and organized large parties, banquets and meetings in their castles and manor houses. These events were not only about providing food and lodging, but also about exhibiting wealth, power, and prestige. Receiving guests and offering hospitality was an important social obligation for the nobility during this period, and was often used as a means of establishing alliances, securing favors, and maintaining social status.

Guilds and trade associations

Guilds and trade associations, made up of artisans, merchants and other professionals, were also responsible for offering hospitality to their members and fellow travelers. They often ran guesthouses, inns or offered accommodation and meals to members traveling for business or business. Guilds and trade associations also played a role in setting standards for hospitality services and ensuring the quality of accommodation and food they offered to their members.

Local inns and taverns

In addition to religious institutions, private inns and hospitality provided by nobility and guilds, local inns and taverns were also common during the Middle Ages. They used to be small establishments run by local innkeepers who catered to the needs of the local population, providing basic accommodation and food to travelers, merchants and locals alike.

Limited services

It is important to note that the hospitality sector during the Middle Ages was not as developed or standardized as it is today. Accommodations used to be basic, with limited amenities and services compared to today’s hotels. Travelers relied heavily on the goodwill of others and the availability of hospitality service providers along their routes.

In general, the hospitality industry during the Middle Ages was characterized by a mixture of religious, private and local establishments that provided accommodation, food and other services to travelers, pilgrims, merchants and local population. Hospitality was closely linked to the religious, social and economic customs of the time, and played an important role in providing care and assistance to those in need, as well as in trade facilitation, social interactions and alliances between different groups of people.

Renaissance: History of hospitality industry; origin and evolution of hotels

The Renaissance, a period of cultural and intellectual renaissance that spanned roughly the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries in Europe, also had repercussions on the hospitality sector. Here is an overview of hospitality during the Renaissance:

The rise of inns and taverns

Inns and taverns played a crucial role in the hospitality sector during the Renaissance. They were essential for travelers, merchants, and pilgrims who needed lodging, food, and other services. Inns and taverns were established along trade routes, pilgrimage routes, and in cities to meet the needs of travelers. They offered travelers a place to rest, eat, and socialize, and also served as clearing houses for information, business, and cultural interactions.

Luxury accommodation for the elite

As the Renaissance was a period of increasing wealth and prosperity for the aristocracy and upper classes, luxury accommodations for the elite became more frequent. Palaces, castles and noble residences were transformed into opulent guest houses to accommodate dignitaries, nobles and other high-ranking guests. These luxury accommodations offered a high level of comfort, sumptuousness and personalized services, satisfying the refined tastes and preferences of the Renaissance elite.


The Renaissance was a period in which greater attention was paid to the culinary arts and gastronomy. Dinners became an important social and cultural event, and the rich and influential hosted elaborate banquets and parties. During this period professional chefs, known as “chefs”, emerged, and the culinary arts and gastronomy became more sophisticated and refined. The hospitality industry responded to this trend by providing specialized dining experiences, offering haute cuisine and showcasing culinary expertise.

Appearance of travel guides

With the growing interest in travel and exploration during the Renaissance, travel guides began to emerge. These guides provided information on routes, accommodations, and services available to travelers. They also included recommendations on inns, taverns and other hospitality establishments, helping travelers make informed decisions about where to stay, eat and find other amenities.

The rise of coffees

Coffee shops, known as “penny colleges,” also sprang up during the Renaissance. These establishments served as social centers where intellectuals, artists, and other members of the elite met to exchange ideas, debate politics, and engage in intellectual discussions over a cup of coffee. Cafes provided a unique form of hospitality, offering a place for intellectual and social interactions, and becoming important centers of cultural and intellectual activities during the Renaissance.

In general, the hospitality industry during the Renaissance was marked by the rise of inns and taverns, luxury accommodations for the elite, attention paid to gastronomy, the emergence of travel guides and the rise of cafes. These events reflected the changing social, cultural and economic landscape of the time and contributed to the evolution of hospitality as we know it today.


The period between 1700 and 1900 saw major changes in the hospitality industry as societies evolved, economies grew and technology advanced. Here is an overview of the hospitality sector during this period:

Hotel development

The concept of the hotel, as we know it today, began to take shape during this period. The industrial revolution brought with it advances in transportation, which led to an increase in mobility and travel. As a result, hotels began to emerge as specialized establishments that offered accommodations, meals, and other services to travelers. The hotels catered to different types of travelers, such as tourists, businessmen and the emerging middle class, and offered a wide range of services and amenities to suit their needs.

Growth of luxury accommodations

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the rise of luxury accommodations for the elite. Large hotels, such as the Ritz and the Savoy, sprang up in major cities and offered opulent accommodations, good food, and personalized services. These luxury hotels became symbols of prestige and social status, and were the favorites of the aristocracy, dignitaries and wealthy travelers.

Restaurant development

Restaurants as independent establishments also began to emerge during this period. Previously, restaurants used to be integrated into inns and hotels, but now independent restaurants specializing in haute cuisine and haute cuisine began to appear. Restaurants became important meeting places, where people gathered, dined and socialized. The concept of a modern restaurant , with menus, professional chefs and specialized culinary offerings, began to take shape during this time.

Growth of the tourism industry

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed the growth of the tourism industry, driven by increased mobility, improved transportation and the emergence of the middle class. Travel for leisure and pleasure became more common, and the concept of “great journey” among the European aristocracy gained popularity. This led to the development of resorts, spas and other leisure destinations that met the needs of tourists.

Technological advances

The industrial revolution brought with it technological advances that had a significant impact on the hotel industry. Innovations such as steam engines, railways, and the telegraph made travel faster, more comfortable, and more accessible. This led to the growth of hospitality, as more and more people could travel and look for accommodation.

Standardization and professionalization

During this period, the hotel industry experienced an increase in standardization and professionalization. The development of standardized hotel ratings, such as star ratings, helped travelers make informed accommodations. The emergence of professional hotel management and the establishment of hospitality schools and training programs contributed to the professionalization of the industry, with increasingly frequent standardized practices and procedures.

Overall, the period between 1700 and 1900 witnessed major advances in the hospitality sector, such as the emergence of hotels, the growth of luxury accommodations, the development of independent restaurants, the growth of the tourism industry, technological advances, and increased standardization and professionalization. These changes laid the foundation for the modern hospitality we know today.


The hotel or hospitality industry in the twentieth century
The hotel or hospitality industry in the twentieth century

During the period 1901-1950, the hospitality sector underwent important changes and evolutions. Here are some of the highlights:

Hotels and resorts

The hotel industry experienced considerable growth during this period, with the construction of large and luxurious hotels and resorts in popular tourist destinations. Many iconic hotels were created, such as the Ritz in Paris (1906) and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York (1931). These hotels were known for their opulence and amenities, and catered to wealthy travelers.

Restaurants and cafes

Restaurants and cafes became increasingly popular during this time. Restaurants began to offer a greater variety of culinary options and some of the first fast food restaurants also emerged. Drive-in theaters and diners gained popularity, offering convenient dining options for families and travelers.

Air transport

The development of commercial aviation in the mid-twentieth century revolutionized the hospitality sector. Air travel became more accessible and airlines began offering meals and services on board to passengers, changing the landscape of travel and hospitality.

Resorts and holidays

Resorts and holiday destinations gained popularity during this era, with the rise of leisure travel. Popular destinations such as Miami Beach, Catskills and Palm Springs became famous for their luxurious resorts, which offered amenities such as swimming pools, golf courses and entertainment options for vacationers.


The era of Prohibition in the United States (1920-1933) had a significant impact on the hotel industry. The sale and consumption of alcohol was banned, leading to the emergence of speakeasies and illegal bars, which operated underground and satisfied the demand for alcohol. The Prohibition era also fueled the rise of organized crime and mafia involvement in the hospitality sector.

World Wars

The two world wars had a significant impact on the hospitality sector. During World War I, many hotels and resorts were converted into hospitals or military bases. By contrast, during World War II, hotels and restaurants often served as gathering places for military personnel, hosting events and providing accommodation for soldiers and war-related activities.

Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century reverberated in the hospitality industry, especially in the United States. Racial segregation was prevalent in many hotels, restaurants, and resorts, and discrimination against black travelers was widespread. However, with the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement, significant efforts were made to desegregate the hospitality sector, leading to greater inclusion and diversity in the industry.

Overall, the hospitality sector experienced significant growth during the period 1901-1950, with the creation of luxury hotels, the rise of restaurants and cafes, the development of air transport, the popularity of resorts and holidays, the impact of Prohibition and the influence of world events such as the world wars and the Civil Rights Movement. These events laid the foundation for the modern hotel industry we know today.


During the period 1951-2000, the hospitality sector experienced important changes and advances. Here are some of the highlights:

Hotel chains and franchises

The concept of hotel chains and franchises gained popularity during this era. Established hotel brands such as Hilton, Marriott and Holiday Inn began to expand their operations and open multiple properties in various locations, resulting in the increase of standardized accommodations and services in different regions.

Technological advances

The hotel sector experienced significant technological advances during this period. The introduction of credit cards, reservation information systems and telecommunications systems transformed the way hotels managed reservations, guest services and operations. The use of computers for inventory management, customer profiling and revenue management also became widespread, leading to greater efficiency and automation of hotel operations.

Resorts & Theme Parks

Resort and theme parks gained popularity during this era, and destinations such as Disneyland (1955) and Disney World (1971) became iconic symbols of family vacations and leisure travel. The resorts expanded their offer to include not only accommodation, but also a wide range of services and entertainment options, such as water parks, golf courses and themed attractions.

Convention and business travel centers

The growth of business travel during this period led to the development of convention centers and facilities designed to meet the needs of events, conferences and corporate meetings. Convention centers with modern facilities and meeting spaces became important components of the hospitality industry, serving the needs of business travelers and hosting large-scale events.

Air transport and tourism

Air travel became more accessible and affordable during this time, leading to an increase in tourism and international travel. The growth of international tourism led to the development of luxury hotels, resorts and other catering establishments in popular tourist destinations around the world, catering to the diverse needs and expectations of travelers from different countries and cultures.

Innovation in food and beverages

The food and beverage sector experienced significant innovations during this period. Fine dining restaurants, ethnic cuisine restaurants and specialty food establishments gained popularity, offering diverse dining experiences to consumers. The rise of fast food chains and casual dining also changed the dining landscape, offering convenient and affordable options for both travelers and locals.

Environmental and sustainability initiatives

Growing awareness of environmental issues and sustainability led to the rise of green practices in the hotel sector. Many hotels and resorts implemented energy-saving measures, waste reduction programs and other environmentally friendly practices to minimize their impact on the environment and promote sustainability.

Technology and online travel

The arrival of the Internet and the rise of online travel agencies (OTAs) in the late nineties revolutionized the way we book and plan trips. Online platforms allowed travelers to compare prices, read reviews and make reservations from the comfort of their homes, which changed the dynamics of the hotel sector and created new opportunities for online marketing and distribution.

Overall, during the period 1951-2000, the hospitality industry experienced significant technological advances, changes in consumer preferences and global travel trends. These advancements shaped the modern hospitality industry, increasingly focused on standardization, technological innovation, sustainability and online travel, which meet the changing needs and expectations of travelers around the world.


The hotel or hospitality industry in the XXI century
The hotel or hospitality industry in the XXI century

During the period 2001-2010, the hospitality sector witnessed important changes and challenges, conditioned by various world events and technological advances. Here are some of the highlights:

Impact of September 11

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States had a profound impact on the hotel industry. Air travel was severely affected, leading to a decline in tourism and hotel bookings, particularly in the United States. Many hotels and resorts had to implement cost-cutting measures and adapt to changing safety and travel regulations.

Online travel and social media

The period 2001-2010 saw the continued growth of online travel and the rise of social media platforms. Online travel agencies (OTAs) gained importance, allowing travelers to easily book hotels and other accommodations online. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor, also gained popularity, providing travelers with a platform to share reviews, recommendations and travel experiences, influencing consumer decisions and shaping the hotel industry’s online reputation management.

Increased attention to security

The events of 11 September increased the focus on security in the hotel sector. Hotels and resorts implemented tighter security measures, such as baggage control, identity checks and increased surveillance, to ensure the safety of guests and employees. Improving safety protocols became a common practice in many hotel establishments.

Green initiatives and sustainability

During this period, greater attention was paid to environmental sustainability. Many hotels and resorts adopted green initiatives, such as energy-saving measures, water conservation programs, and waste reduction practices, to minimize their impact on the environment and attract eco-conscious travelers.

Growth of boutique and lifestyle hotels

Boutique and lifestyle hotels gained popularity during this period, offering unique and personalized experiences to travelers. These hotels, often characterized by their distinctive design, intimate atmosphere and local authenticity, cater to the changing preferences of travelers seeking unique and memorable stays.

Major Technological Advances

The hotel sector witnessed significant technological advances during this period. The use of technology in hotel operations, such as property management systems (PMS), revenue management systems, and guest-oriented technologies, became widespread. Mobile apps for reservations, check-in and guest services also gained ground, providing travelers with convenient and personalized experiences.

Emergence of the collaborative economy:

The sharing economy, characterized by platforms such as Airbnb, emerged during this period and disrupted the traditional hotel sector. Airbnb, in particular, gained significant popularity, allowing travelers to book accommodation in local homes and apartments, challenging the dominance of traditional hotels and changing the dynamics of the accommodation industry.

Focus on customer experience

The hospitality industry has placed increasing emphasis on improving the overall customer experience. Hotels and resorts invested in personalized services, amenities and unique experiences to meet changing traveler preferences and create memorable stays. Customer satisfaction and loyalty became key factors in the success of the sector.

Economic challenges

The hotel sector faced economic challenges during this period, such as the 2008 global financial crisis, which led to a decline in travel demand and hotel bookings. Many catering establishments had to adapt to changing economic conditions and implement savings measures to survive and thrive in a difficult business environment.

In conclusion, during the period 2001-2010 the hospitality sector experienced significant changes, such as the impact of world events, technological advances, changing consumer preferences and economic challenges. The industry adapted to these changes by applying enhanced security measures, embracing technology, focusing on sustainability and prioritizing the customer experience. The emergence of online travel, social media, the sharing economy and boutique hotels were notable trends shaping the hotel landscape during this period.


Recovery from the economic recession

The hospitality sector continued to recover from the 2008 global financial crisis during the early part of this decade. As the global economy gradually recovered, travel demand and hotel bookings began to pick up, leading to a gradual improvement in the financial performance of many hospitality establishments.

Emphasis on technology and digital transformation

The use of technology in the hospitality sector became even more widespread during this period. Hotels and resorts increasingly adopted advanced technologies, such as cloud-based property management systems (PMS), mobile apps, contactless check-in and check-out, and other guest-facing technologies to improve the guest experience, improve operational efficiency, and streamline processes.

Rise of online travel agencies and online bookings

Online travel agencies (OTAs) continued to dominate the online booking landscape during this period. Agencies such as Booking.com, Expedia and others gained greater prominence, offering travelers convenient and easy-to-use platforms to book hotels and other accommodations online. Direct bookings through hotel websites also increased, which sought to reduce their reliance on intermediaries and increase direct bookings.

Focus on personalization and guest experience

The hotel industry increasingly focused on personalizing and improving the overall guest experience. Hotels and resorts invested in technologies and strategies to collect guest data, analyze guest preferences, and deliver personalized services, amenities and experiences to create memorable stays and build guest loyalty.

Sustainability and responsible tourism

Sustainability and responsible tourism became more relevant during this period. Many hotels and resorts adopted green initiatives, such as energy-saving measures, waste reduction programs, and community engagement efforts, to minimize their environmental impact and contribute to local communities. Green certifications, such as LEED and Green Key, gained greater recognition in the sector.

Growing influence of social media and online reviews

Social media and online reviews continued to have a significant impact on the hospitality sector. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TripAdvisor remained popular with travelers for sharing travel experiences, recommendations and reviews. Hotels and resorts focused on managing their online reputation, responding to guest reviews, and leveraging social media to engage with guests and promote their properties.

Disruption of the collaborative economy and short-term rentals

The sharing economy, led by platforms such as Airbnb, continued to disrupt the traditional hotel sector during this period. Short-term rentals gained popularity among travelers, especially for leisure and extended stays. Hotels and resorts had to adapt to changing market dynamics and competition posed by the sharing economy by offering unique experiences, services and amenities to attract and retain guests.

Increased security measures

Safety remained a priority in the hotel industry. Hotels and resorts implemented enhanced safety protocols, such as increased sanitation and hygiene measures, health checks and contactless technologies, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Crisis management and emergency preparedness also increased. Crisis management and emergency preparedness also received increased attention following natural disasters and other unforeseen events.

Change in travellers’ preferences

Travellers’ preferences continued to evolve during this period. The demand for experiential travel, wellness-focused stays and sustainable accommodation grew. Hotels and resorts responded by offering unique experiences, wellness programs and green initiatives to meet changing consumer preferences.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound and unprecedented impact on the hospitality industry during the latter part of this decade. Lockouts, travel restrictions and social distancing measures severely affected travel demand, leading to widespread hotel closures, job losses and financial hardship for the sector.

Hotels and resorts had to adapt to the rapidly evolving situation by applying strict health and safety measures, moving to contactless technologies, offering flexible cancellation policies and focusing on local and national markets. The pandemic also accelerated the adoption of digital technologies in the sector, such as virtual events, online check-ins and digital payments, to minimize physical contact and ensure the safety of guests.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, there were also notable trends and advances in the hospitality sector during this period, such as the increase in holiday stays, work stays and leisure travel (which combine business and leisure travel). Hotels and resorts also focused more on wellness and hygiene initiatives, such as enhanced cleaning protocols, air purification systems and wellness services, to reassure guests and prioritize their health and well-being.

In addition, during this period there was a greater awareness and emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion in the hotel sector. Many hotels and resorts implemented policies and initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion in their workforce, as well as in their marketing and customer services, in order to respond to changing demographics and traveller preferences.


Hospitality is a broad sector that includes accommodation and food services, as well as other related activities such as travel, tourism, events and leisure. This industry is one of the largest and most diverse in the world, employing millions of people and generating billions of dollars in revenue. In addition, the hospitality industry is constantly evolving and adapting to changing customer preferences, market conditions and technological innovations.

One of the main challenges faced by the hospitality sector in recent years was the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely disrupted travel and tourism activities and forced many businesses to close or reduce their operations. However, the industry also showed resilience and creativity in finding new ways to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic era. Some of the key trends that are shaping the hospitality sector in 2022 are:

  • Recovery and growth: According to the conclusions of the Hospitality Global Market Report 2022, the global hospitality market is poised for substantial growth, with an estimated increase from $3,952.87 billion in 2021 to $4,548.42 billion in 2022, at a CAGR of 15.1%, attributed to the removal of COVID-19 restrictions. The market is expected to continue growing to reach $6,715.27 million in 2026, with a CAGR of 10.2%. Hotel room demand and revenue are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, with a projected hotel occupancy rate of 63.4% for that year. Hotel occupancy is expected to increase, with an expected average rate of 63.4% for the full year. The meetings and events sector is also expected to recover, with 58.3% of events returning in 2022, and 86.9% back in 2023.
  • Technology and innovation: The hospitality industry is embracing various technologies that are transforming the customer experience, improving operational efficiency and creating new business opportunities. Significant advancements in this market include technological improvements such as the application of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, infrared technologies, and robotics itself.
  • NFC technology allows customers to exchange data between devices, making mobile payments an instant and secure process. Infrared technologies allow hotels to remotely control room occupancy and temperature, saving energy and improving guest comfort. Robots can perform tasks such as delivering room service, cleaning rooms, or providing information and entertainment.
  • Wellness and sustainability: The hotel sector is also responding to growing consumer awareness and demand for wellness and sustainability practices. The wellness sector is booming and has become a trillion-dollar market, offering lucrative prospects for hotel establishments, especially those equipped with spa facilities, to grab a significant share of the market.

Aside from traditional beauty and relaxation services, there is a growing demand for health diagnostic technology and personalized treatment plans provided by qualified experts who lead individual or group sessions focused on vitality, healing, stress management, emotional balance, mindfulness, and sleep improvement.

In addition, the hotel sector is adopting more environmentally friendly measures, such as reducing waste, water and energy consumption, using renewable energy sources, sourcing local and ecological products and supporting social causes.

Read also: Classification of hotels by stars and diamonds; Hotel star rating; 1 Diamond Hotels; General Motors history, origin, evolution, GM

Editions 2018-2023

External resource: Rdaep

This post is also available in: English Français (French) Deutsch (German) Español (Spanish) Dansk (Danish) Nederlands (Dutch) Svenska (Swedish)