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Hotels globally have established themselves as landmarks within the cities they exist – The Burj Al Arab (Dubai), Plaza Hotel (New York), Taj Mahal Palace (Mumbai) – it is not so uncommon to identify the host city by these structures. They reflect the ideal balance of extravagance and modern day luxuries while remaining a repository of years gone.
The hotel industry as we see it today has developed over centuries. From simple structures, home extensions and inns in Europe or the Caravanserais in the Arab world, meant to aid the pilgrim, each century has involved this industry evolve in different ways. The present day order to this industry can be traced back around the beginning of the 15th century, when French law required these setups maintain a register; this was followed by English law which laid the foundation to over 500 inns set up across these two countries.
The next era of major development came at the time of the Industrial Revolution (18th and 19th centuries), which saw amongst others, the invention of the steam engine trigger travel across major hubs of progress. This period saw the setting up of the 800 room Le Grand Hotel, Paris, which opened in 1862. Other famous hotels of this period included the Sagamore Hotel, New York; the Palmer House Hotel, Chicago; the Palais de Wurtemberg, Vienna and l’Hotel Hermitage, Monte Carlo.
In essence, the product delivered by hotels is easily defined: shelter and a meal – this has remained the core of the industry across centuries. The periphery though, forming the distinguishing facet, has been adorned by innovation in each of these hotels outlined. This innovation took on a new dimension in the latter part of the 20th century coinciding with, firstly, the advancements in travel, particularly air travel, and secondly, by the strides made in technology increasing the demands of the end consumer. Direct fallout of the same was international chains vie for the best, with imaginative feats taking over the entire chain from the customer reservation, check-in, stay and comfort.
Innovation has continued into the 21st century and there is no doubt that it would continue to dominate the future of hotels in years to come. Access and options would continue to multiply, etching the industry as a city’s identity definer. In all of this, the customer remains king, ensured of the best of service, be it 355 m high, at the JW Marriott Marquis, Dubai or under water at the Poseidon Undersea Resorts, Fiji.
Guinness World Records holds Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture, built in 705 AD as the world’s oldest hotel. Built by Fujiwara Mahito, this traditional inn, at 1311 years old, has stayed in his family for 52