Types of hotels | Understanding tourism

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(Last updated on: 25/11/2020)

There are many different types of hotels around the world, which make up an important part of the tourism industry.

The type of hotel that a person requires will depend on several different factors. If someone is travelling on business they will lhave different needs and requirements compared to a family taking a two week summer sun holiday, for example. Types of hotels also vary depending on budget- some cost considerably more than others!

In this article I am going to tell you a bit more about the different types of hotels that we find in the tourism industry and what to expect…

What is a hotel?

Types of hotels
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Before looking at types of hotels, it is important to establish exactly what a hotel is.

A hotel is a type of accommodation. It is defined as being an establishment providing accommodation, meals, and other services for travellers and tourists.

Hotels aim to be somewhere where people can stay whilst away from home, whether this is for business or leisure purposes. Hotels are for short-term lets. This can be either just the one night, or a couple of weeks; however, you would be unlikely to stay in a hotel for longer periods of time. Some people have, of course. Coco Chanel famously lived at the Ritz in Paris for 37 years, and Bob Dylan lived in the Hotel Chelsea in New York City!

There are so many different types of hotels. Below you’ll find information about the various hotel types, and their place within the tourism and hospitality industry.

Depending on what type of holiday you’re planning, it is important to know all of the differing hotel types to ensure you get everything you want out of your trip. If you want luxury, then a hostel probably isn’t for you – and if you’re not driving, a motel probably won’t work out for the best…

The importance of hotels in the tourism industry

Before we get started, I think it is important to emphasise how important the hotel industry is.

Hotels are a core component of tourism. According to the most widely accepted definition of tourism by the UNWTO, in order to qualify as a tourist you must be away from your usual place of residence for at least one night. Therefore, having a place to stay is essential!

Hotels are the most popular type of accommodation within the tourism industry. They come in all shapes and sizes but one thing remains the same- they make an income.

Types of hotels
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Different hotels operate in different ways. The economic benefits of locally-owned and run hotels that are sustainably managed is usually pretty significant. Whilst multinational chains such as Hilton or Travelodge encourage economic leakage in tourism, meaning that not much of the money stays in the local area.

Nonetheless, the revenue made from hotels makes up a significant proportion of the income raised from tourism. So, hotels are pretty important!

Hotel star rating system

In order to allow guests to know what they are purchasing, hotels around the world have adopted a universal hotel star rating system. Now, when I say ‘universal’, you should really take that with a pinch of salt. Because, quite frankly, a 5 star hotel in the USA isn’t always the same standards as a 5 star hotel in India….

Nonetheless, this is how the hotel star rating system is generally applied:

Types of hotels
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One star hotels

One star hotels offer no frills. They are very basic and there often isn’t much offered other than a place to sleep. I have slept in a hammock in a shared room, a shed and many multi-bed dormitories that have all been labelled as one star.

Two star hotels

Two star hotels offer basic accommodation and amenities. The price is generally low.

Three star hotels

Three star hotels are middle of the range. They are average priced, meaning that they are not usually cheap, nor are they expensive.

The average person will choose to stay in a three star hotel.

Three star hotels may also be former four or five star hotels that have not been well maintained or updated.

Four star hotels

Four star hotels offer good levels of hospitality and comfort.

They will often provide a range of facilities and services, such as a spa and room service.

Five star hotels

A five star rating is the highest rating. Five star hotels are premium hotels and usually have a premium price tag to go with it.

Five star hotels should offer a flawless level of service and a very high standard of rooms and facilities.

A hotel of this calibre is likely to offer personalised services and premium services, such as fine dining.

Types of hotels around the world

There are a range of different types of hotels found all around the world. Below, I will give you a brief description of the most common types of hotels.

Airport hotels

Types of hotels
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As the name suggests, airport hotels are situated near airports. Many countries have them.

Airport hotels provide accommodation for those taking early flights who don’t wish to travel to the airport in the middle of the night.

Most airport hotels include free airport transfer (usually a shuttle bus) for convenience. Some are located inside the airport too, which is super convenient for transit passengers who don’t want to leave the airport.

Apart-hotels

brown wooden center table
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Apart-hotels offer the same services as a hotel – a front desk and house keeping as well as often having a bar attached, offering room service and so on.

The only difference is that instead of having hotel rooms, they instead offer apartments. These are bigger and include a kitchen and living area as well as sleeping space and a bathroom.

Apart-hotels are perfect for families because they provide more space than most ordinary hotel rooms. You can put the kids to sleep in one room and relax in another too- meaning that you don’t have to walk around in the dark after 7pm! Oh, and they are great for self-catering.

Bed and breakfast

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Typically, a bed and breakfast (also referred to as a B&B) is small. They have an average of six rooms and a very homely vibe – you might experience daily interaction with other guests and the owner, especially a meal times.

B&Bs are popular with domestic tourists in each respective country. They *literally* offer you a bed and your breakfast – as such, they tend to be in locations where there are a lot of things to do because you’re unlikely to spend the whole day at this type of hotel. For example, in Britain you’ll find B&Bs aplenty at seaside locations such as Brighton and Blackpool.

Bed and breakfast accommodations are usually locally-owned and managed. This means that the money generated largely stays within the host community. It also offers great opportunities for cultural tourism.

Boutique hotels

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Boutique hotels tend to be small (100 rooms or less, typically) and most are independently owned. They are personalised, themed or come with a unique design.

The rooms might be based on certain films, or decorated in the style of a particular artist, or themed around a certain band. Many have a local influence too.

Some examples include The Albion Rooms in Margate, themed around indie-rock band The Libertines, and The Dixie Dean Hotel – located in Liverpool and influenced by record-breaking Everton player Dixie Dean.

Chain hotels

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Chain hotels are, as the name suggests, attached to a chain or brand.

Chain hotels tend to have guidelines in place for design and amenities, and many have accommodations all over the world. The great thing about chain hotels is that you know what you are buying. However, they are also huge contributors to economic leakage in tourism, which isn’t so great.

Some popular hotel chains include Best Western, Premier Inn, Hilton and Mercure. They are much less personal than independent or boutique hotels, but people tend to trust a brand name which is what lends them so much success within the industry.

Eco hotels

eco lodges in gambia

Eco hotels are a type of hotel that have a focus on being eco-friendly and giving back to the environment.

Eco hotels use solar panels and recycled water, do less laundry and so on.

These hotels are independently owned, but many chain hotels have pledged to make changes in order to improve their environmental impact.

African countries such as The Gambia are full of eco lodges, which allow tourists to stay somewhere off the beaten track, experience the beauty of these places and contribute to the local economy.

Gastro hotels

person preparing a pizza
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SA gastro hotel is a type of hotel that focuses heavily on food.

From on-site vegetable patches to Michelin-star chefs in the restaurants, gastro hotels are firm favourites with foodies.

These tend to be smaller hotels, and run independently.

Golf resorts

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Golf tourism is big businesses, so big that there are dedicated golf resort hotels!

A golf resort is an area that provides everything that the golf tourist would need- sporting facilities and equipment, entertainment, catering options and accommodation.

Gold resorts tend to be very upmarket. Many of the world’s best golf resorts can be found in Spain, though there are some great ones in the Caribbean and Hawaii too.

Hostels

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When it comes to types of hotels, hostels can’t be overlooked.

Popular mostly with younger travellers, hostels offer budget accommodation to those visiting new places.

Hostels are common in European cities and in places like Australia and Thailand where many go backpacking.

They offer a range of dormitory and private room accommodation, and tend to be much more affordable than booking a typical hotel.

Most people tend to stay only a couple of nights at a hostel.

Hostels can also be found on hiking trails, and many don’t need to be booked in advance.

Independent hotels

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This is a hotel that is owned by a private company or family.

An independent hotel is stand-alone, rather than being part of a larger chain, and therefore usually more personable. You can find these around the world.

Independent hotels tend to be smaller (having less rooms) than chain hotels.

Microstay hotels

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A relatively new type of hotel, micro stay accommodation has tapped into a gap in the market. It’s a win-win situation. They allow travellers (especially those traveling for business) to get a few hours rest without having to pay for overnight accommodation – and they also allow hotels to increase their revenue as rooms can potentially be sold twice in a 24-hour period.

Other types of hotels offer microstay options, though there are some hotels that exists solely for this type of travel.

Motels

wood street building house
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Motels are types of hotels that are located near a highway – this is generally an American type of accommodation.

The concept is simple- you can drive right up to your room and park outside.

Many motels are independently owned, but there are some chain motels too.

Pop-up hotels

people in tent in forest
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There are so many different types of hotels, and pop-up hotels are one of the most innovative.

Pop up hotels can be assembled anywhere, and you’re likely to see them at events and festivals such as Glastonbury or at the F1.

Pop-up hotels are made of pre-fabricated materials and can be installed (then uninstalled) quickly. They’re convenient and offer a great alternative to camping!

Resort hotels

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Often found in sunny holiday locations like the Caribbean or the coast of Egypt, resorts have everything in one place.

As well as accommodation, resort hotels offer pools, restaurants, bars, shops, spas, gyms, entertainment, childcare and more.

Many have their own beach space with sun loungers and umbrellas, too!

Resorts are sometimes part of hotel chains (such as Sandals or TUI), and other times they are independent resorts.

Ski resorts

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Offering everything you need for the perfect skiing trip, ski resorts have accommodation, restaurants, bars, childcare and of course, ski slopes.

They will have a ski hire and shop on site too.

Most ski resorts also have instructors so you can actually learn to ski whilst on holiday. Austria, France and Switzerland have some of the best ski resorts in Europe, while the US has some great ski resorts in Colorado and Utah.

The best websites to book a hotel

Once you have decided what type of hotel you want to stay at, it is time to book!

There are various ways to book hotels and it entirely depends on what sort of traveller you are.

You can use a travel agent who will end you a package deal including flights, transfer and accommodation, or an online booking site who do pretty much the same thing such as Love Holidays or Holiday Pirates.

Another option is to book directly with the holiday company themselves, such as TUI or Jet2. Again, this generally means everything is included.

For city breaks and multi-destination trips, it is generally better to book the hotel yourself. I always use booking.com are great for this as they allow you to book well in advance, and often offer free cancellation. They also give you the option to search by location if you don’t have a specific hotel in mind!

You can, of course, book direct too. Many hotels (especially independent ones) will offer a discount if you book directly through their website or by calling. It is also a great idea to email your hotel before your arrival and see if they can upgrade you – if you don’t ask, you don’t get! THIS is a great template for hotel upgrades.

Types of hotels: Further reading

If you’ve made it this far then you are probably interested to learn more about the travel and tourism industry- go you! I’ve written lots of articles that I just know you will LOVE. Here are some of my favourite recommendations:

1 Comment
  1. Hassan Shuaibu Chiroma

    Thanks Dr Hayley, this is very educating and interesting. Where fo we put Budget hotels, please? Help me explain the concept, please.
    Warm regards,
    Hassan

    Reply

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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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