100 Years Of Trends In The Hospitality Industry: Hotel Edition
Here is a look at the evolution of hotels and their amenities in the past century.
Walking into the lobby of a hotel in the early 1900’s felt rich, and what we would say today, classical. Guests were greeted by staircases with red carpet running down the middle and gold leaf touching everything in sight. The front desk had wooden details, with metal keys behind the counter with tassels hanging off of them. Since there was no electricity, people would use candlelight to light their way in the dark. Just a few years later St. Regis in New York City was the first hotel to have controlled heating and cooling in each guest room.
Guest rooms mainly had flower-detailed wallpaper and brass bed frames. Each room would have ornate ceilings lined with crown molding. In 1908, phones and built-in radios became extremely popular and were put into most hotels. By 1912 electricity was introduced for cooking purposes only and guests still needed to light their way by candlelight. The price for all of this was $2.00, which is equal to $67.24 in 2016.
Guests in the 1910’s were still very interested in the detail in hotels from the 1900’s. Fireplace rooms drew in many guests that liked to be sociable and meet new people. Many of the colors in the lobbies and rooms changed from gold to different shades of green. The outside of hotels started to change with time. Many hotels removed balconies from each room to create a smoother looking building from the outside. Stone façade became popular to create dimension to the now flat outside. While the ornate details on the ceiling and trims were still there, the walls became bare. What started to trend in the 1910’s, was black and white mosaic style hex tiles. Amenities offered included a mosquito net large enough to cover the full bed, a fireplace, and a vanity table for women to get ready.
The 1920’s was an exciting era since people were able to have more leisure time and a paid vacation from work. Having extra time to travel helped the hotel industry boom. Many hotels decided to change the way the rooms looked. Instead of extreme details and pattern on pattern, they decided on the idea that “less is more”. More hotels during the 1920’s decided to change the style to art deco and step back designs. In 1925, the first motel broke through the industry, offering a night’s stay for just $2.50 which made traveling easier to afford. Just a year later, Route 66 was complete, and motels became the go-to place for travelers to rest for a night. The economy was booming, but by the end of the roaring 20’s in 1929, the Great Depression hit.
With about 20% of the population unemployed, people were trying to get back on their feet financially. Hotels started to change the way they looked again. Detailed flower couches, black and white tiles, and ornate door trims became popular to see in many rooms. Rooms included large radios, phones with long cords that reached across the room, and in some hotels, baby cages. Baby cages were popular around this time because rooms were much smaller and there was no space for a baby. The baby cage would attach to the window and would allow the baby to have fresh air and gave the family more space to move around.
Hotels had less than 50% occupancy and most hotels went into bankruptcy. Many people did not have much money but were still paying for movies and listening to the radio. Hotel room rates jumped from $2.00 in 1920 to $5.60 for the same room just 10 years later. This was a huge risk for the hotel industry since a lot of the country was out of the job.
After many years in debt, the economy started to boom again when World War II began. A few years earlier most hotels could barely keep 50% occupancy, but now the occupancy rate was at 90%. The war had created many jobs and people were able to take paid vacations again. Many of the hotels in the 1940’s kept the same simple structure of the rooms from the 1930’s, but now with bold pops of color and wood panels. New inventions such as the vibrating beds were put into hotel rooms.
In 1946, casinos were the main focus inside of hotels. This ended up changing the entire layout of what a normal hotel looked like. Instead of the focus being the grand chandeliers and high-end items in the lobby, the first point of contact for guests was the casino. Guests would have to weave their way through the casino to check into their room at the front desk. Many eyes would wander and people would spend money before they even checked in. By this time hotel prices dropped down to $3.21 a night, which was much more affordable price than just ten years before.
In the 1950's more and more people began buying cars, resulting in more people traveling across the country for both business purposes as well as leisure. Sewing kits and booklets with names and numbers were some of the amenities added to rooms specifically for women during this time. Chocolates on pillows started in the 1950’s because Cary Grant requested a trail of chocolates from the room door to the pillow. The manager heard about this request and thought it would be a great gesture to put a chocolate on each pillow after the bed was made and the idea spread.
Hotels started to introduce mini bars in each room to increase revenue. The hotel industry started to notice that being wheelchair accessible in hotel rooms was a benefit and accessibility became the main focus. By 1966, hotels start to add in more amenities, like ice and vending machines in guest hallways, retractable drying lines in guest showers, and business lounges in the main lobby. Hotel bathrooms in the 1960’s provided guests with small shampoos, lotions, and mouthwashes. Some hotels created an outside entrance to their in-house restaurant so people not staying at the hotel could dine without having to walk through the lobby. In 1968, 24-hour room service was introduced, and was a huge hit for guests to be able to order meals over the phone and have it delivered straight to their room.
In the mid 70’s people started to understand the need to conserve energy. Hotels started to request guests to turn their lights and air conditioning off when not in use. While televisions made an appearance in the 1950’s, it wasn’t until the 1970’s, when televisions started to have color, that they became popular in hotel rooms. Many hotels started to offer HBO and other movie channels. Pulling up to a hotel, guests would see large, colorful signs with flashing lights to grab their attention with mentions of cold air conditioning and a heated pool. Carpet in the bathrooms started to become popular as well as fun shaped bathtubs. Many of the walls had wood panels instead of wallpaper because it gave an eco-friendly look to the rooms.
Hotel companies were moving forward and began offering the option to pay by credit card. Electronic key cards were first given out in 1983 and have slowly gained popularity since then. By 1986, telephones became popular and were put into each guest room. Hotels started becoming more family oriented and were able to accommodate for children that were traveling with their parents. In 1989, Camp Hyatt started which helped parents relax, and children to have supervised fun. The styles in the 80’s were very bold with a different pattern on each surface. Many of the colors were very ‘in-your-face’ and your eyes could not focus on one item at a time.
The technological boom of the 1990’s enhanced the hotel industry and gave hotels the ability to provide more for their guests. Hotels could create their personalized website on the internet so guests could reserve rooms in the comfort of their own home.
Many more people also started traveling for business purposes. Radisson hotels were the first to introduce business-class rooms in 1993 followed by many other hotel chains. By 1999, guests were wanting more with their stay, so by this time a few hotels started to introduce personal computers in each guest room. Some of the top amenities offered in the 90’s were free food, free liquor, and free breakfast. The style of the hotel rooms had very basic features. Brass was the new feature that was on many furniture pieces in the room. Many of the colors you would see were off whites, soft pinks, and blues.
Early 2000’s, hotels had the technological equipment to provide guests traveling for business with an easier time working on the go. In order to catch the eye of potential guests, hotels were enticing people with free wi-fi in their hotel rooms. The hotel's focus was on the needs of the businessman, with the additional flexible spaces for meetings. Wi-Fi was now an essential amenity for hotels to have in order to draw in more transient guests. Large meeting spaces became more popular when Videoconferencing made a breakthrough in the industry.
Today, guests expect a lot from hotels including free wi-fi, a 24-hour business center, on-demand entertainment, bathrobes, hair dryers, and flat screen televisions. Some of the newer amenities hotels started to acquire are Tesla charging stations, mobile phone charging stations, and a rain shower head in bathrooms. Many of the hotels now are what we would consider modern with straight sleek lines. Each room normally has handpicked artwork to go with the theme of the hotel. Many hotels built in the past ten years have been built a certain way so almost every room is a “good view” room. Pet-friendly hotels are starting to become popular, and for an added fee you can bring your family pet on vacation. With so many different trends over the years, it's hard to imagine what the future of the hotel industry holds.
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